For Northern Illinois it was always going to be a tough battle. Pitted against Conference USA champions Marshall (13-1, 7-1 CUSA), the Huskies were dominated in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl last night.
After snatching their third MAC championship in four years, NIU looked poised to finish the year on a strong note. NIU's title game win over Bowling Green was arguably their most complete performance of the season-- the defense made plays and forced turnovers, and the offense was finally able to fire on all cylinders.
Unfortunately in South Florida last night, the NIU team that routed Bowling Green and came back against Western Michigan did not show up.
NIU finishes the year 11-3 overall, 7-1 in the MAC. The loss marks the third straight bowl game defeat for NIU, all with Rod Carey at the helm, granted, Carey was thrown into the fire as the new skipper when Dave Doeren left for NC State the year NIU played Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Drew Hare, QB: 4/10 Coming off one of his best performances of the year in Detroit, Drew Hare was very poor vs. Marshall last night. Missed at least five deep throws to Da'Ron Brown and others, took many sacks, and failed to complete a handful of easier passes too. Tough note to end on for the sophomore QB.
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Joel Bouagnon, RB: 7.5/10 One of the few bright spots for NIU on the night. Ran tough and made the most of each carry, explosive to the hole as usual. Although Bouagnon did fail to convert on the goal line when NIU needed him most with Cam Stingily injured.
Akeem Daniels, RB: N/A Left the game early with an injury, disappointing end to a season where he finally was healthy for the majority. NIU certainly could have used his athleticism.
Cameron Stingily, RB: 7/10 Did all he could in his final game as a Husky running back, came alive in the home stretch, unfortunately it was too late. Authoritative on most carries, but did get stuffed on a critical fourth and inches to start the second half.
Da'Ron Brown, WR: 6/10 Flat performance in the final game of his career for NIU. Many targets his way were off the mark. Not as influential in the game as many would have hoped.
Juwan Brescacin, WR 6.5/10 Quiet for the rest of the game after his opening 19 yard touchdown grab.
Argeros Turner, WR 8/10 Best receiver for NIU in the game. Showed his acrobatic and athletic ability all night long. Made an amazing catch in the second half when NIU was desperate for a big play downfield. Had a couple of swift kickoff returns as well. Proved once more that he was adequate to fill the void of Tommylee Lewis, those two should be one dangerous pair to watch next season.
Offensive line 5/10 Opened up a few huge holes for the running backs that translated into big gains, yet the group up front failed to execute on the most critical downs and in the red zone. Also gave up too many sacks, uncharacteristically.
Dechane Durante, S 4/10 Very disappointing way to end his career as a Husky. Very passive in the open field and got beat multiple times in the secondary. Durante played up and down all year long and sadly ended the season, and his four year career, on a big low.
Rasheed Lemon, LB 5/10 Was nowhere to be found for run support and wasn't able to stop Rakeem Cato on the read option. Ineffective in the pass rush department, rare occurence.
Sean Folliard, LB 7.5/10 Most active out of all the NIU linebackers. Had two big sacks and was a run stuffer all night long. Lone bright spot for the entire front seven.
Perez Ford, DE 6/10 Wasn't able to establish his steady pass rush off the edge but did make a few decent plays stopping the run. Speed and athletic ability shined at times.
Paris Logan, CB 6.5/10 Nothing special about his performance, but it was the best out of the entire NIU secondary. Contained Tommy Shuler for the short period of time he was assigned to cover him. Did not get beat like the rest of his fellow defenders did at some point last night.
Special Teams 5.5/10 Kickoff coverage picked a bad time to finally let up a kick off return for a touchdown. Christian Hagan did as MAC kickers do by missing a field goal from less than 35 yards out. Tyler Wedel had a nice night punting and successfully executed an onside kick to start the second half. As mentioned above, Argeros Turner had a couple of decent kickoff run backs. Ultimately, special teams were sub par for NIU.
Rod Carey, HC 6.5/10 Carey called a decent game along with offensive coordinator Bob Cole in the first half. The loss of Akeem Daniels really did hinder the overall scheme though. His offense's lack of execution in the red zone was ultimately the achilles heel. Baffled as to why Carey did not give Drew Hare some easier throws to get him going in the second half. Although his position is secure, as it should be, Carey's ability to get his team to rise to the big bowl occasion should be questioned.