Where has the offense gone? A week after taking #1 Ohio State to the wire before ultimately being done in by a lack of offense, the Northern Illinois Huskies saw a similar story play out in a 17-14 loss at the hands of Boston College on Saturday in Mount Chestnut.
A three play, four yard touchdown drive set up by a 79 yard interception return by Shawun Lurry and an 86 yard kickoff return for touchdown by Aregeros Turner was the only "offense" the Huskies were able to muster. Northern Illinois posted a grand total of 153 yards of offense.
A game which was expected to be a defensive battle lived up to it's hype, especially early on. The first ten drives of the game produced only three first downs before Boston College finally found some wiggle room midway through the second quarter.
After eight straight running plays marched the Eagles into Northern Illinois territory, Troy Flutie found a wide open Charlie Callinan down the right sideline for a 27 yard touchdown pass.
Following a punt by Northern Illinois, Boston College was again approaching the redzone when Lurry stepped in front of a Flutie pass and raced down the sideline before barely being tripped up on the Boston College four yardline. A two yard scoring plunge by Joel Bouagnon knotted the game at 7.
With the Northern Illinois offense running their usual up tempo offense but having little success, the Huskies' defense was hung out to dry. Boston College used their methodical run game to tire the Huskies' defense, and it began to show in the second half.
The Huskies marched deep into Boston College territory early in the half, but Christian Hagan missed a short field goal following a Drew Hare incompletion on third on one.
The Eagles responded with a 12 play (11 runs), 80 yard drive capped off by a 21 yard Jon Hillman touchdown run.
The Northern Illinois offense never could find any momentum. Drew Hare finished the game 11 of 25 passing for 81 yards and an interception. While Hare played poorly, he did not get much help. Dropped passes (particularly four by Tommylee Lewis), presnap penalties, and poor offensive line play plagued the Huskies all day.
An 11 play (all runs), 58 yard drive led to Colton Lichtenberg's first career field goal and extended the Eagles' lead to a commanding 17-7 score with under five minutes to play. However, Turner returned the ensuring kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, keeping the Huskies alive.
Despite being on the field for 38 of the game's 60 minutes, the Northern Illinois defense stood tall and forced a three and out, giving Hare and company over two minutes in an attempt to get into field goal range.
Hare found Chad Beebe for a 26 yard pickup on the first play of the drive, followed by a five yard hookup with Lewis to put the Huskies on the Eagle 35 yard line. However, as was the story of the day, a false start and a drop by Lewis forced Northern Illinois into fourth and long, and the Huskies were unable to convert.
Losing by a touchdown to Ohio State and a field goal to Boston College certainly is not reason for panic in DeKalb, but the Huskies have some major issues to work on before they open conference play at Central Michigan next week.
The running game has uncharacteristically struggled all year. Yes, Ohio State and Boston College both have very good defenses, but the run game was almost nonexistent in the first half of games against UNLV and Murray State as well.
The offensive line, particularly the right side of the line, has struggled as much as any offensive line at Northern Illinois in recent memory. Poor run blocking, poor pass blocking, a variety of presnap penalties, all have plagued the line this season.
As strong as Hare and wide receive Kenny Golladay were the first two weeks, they have been equally as bad the last two weeks. In the losses to Ohio State and Boston College, Hare completed 25 of 56 passes for 161 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs. Likewise, Golladay only posted 5 catches for 26 yards.
Lurry and the defense has been a pleasant surprise, but without better play offensively, the Huskies will be hard pressed to make a sixth consecutive apperance in Detroit.