The Northern Illinois Huskies were able to erase a 12-point fourth quarter deficit and beat the Ohio University Bobacats 24-21 on Saturday afternoon. So what did we learn from the close battle?
1. The Huskies (once again) nearly ruined it for themselves
Not to take anything away from Nathan Rourke or the Ohio offense but the Huskies certainly shot themselves in the foot on the drives Ohio found the end zone.
On the Bobcats first scoring drive, Ohio had the ball inside the NIU 5-yard line but couldn’t score...until a third down pass interference call gave Ohio a new set of down. The Huskies once again stopped the Bobcats on three consecutive plays...until a SECOND pass interference call gave Ohio a third chance at scoring. Finally, on their SEVENTH attempt they were able to get into the end zone.
Ohio’s third TD drive had very similar circumstances...two fouls on back-to-back third downs (3rd-and-16 and 3rd-and-12) helped the Bobcats stay on the field and moved them into scoring range.
Had the Huskies had been disciplined on those downs, it could have easily been a much easier game for the Huskies...but I guess it just proves how much NIU lives by their motto - The Hard Way.
2. Isiah Cox could have a very bright future
The freshman receiver for Ohio had a career day against the Huskies. Cox entered the day with just two career catches, 52 yards, and a TD...against NIU, he exploded for a game-high 147 yards.
Cox might have had just three catches but his 49 yards per catch and huge RAC numbers are insane!
If he can do that (as a freshman) against the best defense in the MAC, look out for him to have a very solid career in Athens.
3. NIU’s offense doesn’t seem as anemic against MAC opponents
After five weeks of terrible, terrible offense it seems like NIU might have found a rhythm here. Last week the Huskies gained 370 yards against Ball State...this week, they netted a season high 400 yards, mostly on the ground.
Marcus Childers has certainly looked better recently, especially in the run game. In fact, he had 24 more rushing yards than he did passing yards against the Bobcats.
His legs really saved NIU yesterday, as he had a touchdown and led all players with 169 rushing yards - which included a 30-yard scamper and, on the Huskies final drive, a 20-yard rush AND a 32-yard run on third down that sealed the game for NIU.
If the Huskies can find a consistent passing attack they could be very scary. But, as it is, I would still hate to have to play against Childers when he’s feeling it like he did yesterday.
4. Ohio’s defense is very worrisome for a team that’s favored to be in the MACC Game
Entering the game the Bobcats defense was allowing 500 yards and 36 points per game. And, even though those totals will go down some after holding NIU to 24 points and (just?) 400 yards, that is not what you want from a team that expected to be in Detroit this December.
Ohio had been allowing a lot more passing yards than rushing yards per game but NIU showed the Bobcats that they need some work against the run too, as NIU gashed them for 255 yards and three scores while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. It was the most rushing TDs NIU has had all season.
If the Bobcats want to make to the MAC Championship Game, the defense certainly needs to tighten things up in both the run and pass game.
5. If this was the preview of the MAC title game...the potential rematch will be great
If this was just the appetizer, I can’t wait for the main course.
Both teams played well and yet both made plenty of mistakes that can be corrected and improved upon moving forward (ex: Ohio had three turnovers, NIU commited 12 penalties totalling 109 yards) but, for the most part, it was a very competitive, very exciting game.
It sure seemed like two of the best teams in the MAC battling it out. If these two squads can find their way to the MACC game, it’s sure to be just as exciting and fun to watch.