The Northern Illinois Huskies didn’t start 2018 off on the right foot as they fell 33-7 to the Iowa Hawkeyes yesterday afternoon. But what did we learn from the first 60 minutes of Huskie football?
1. The Huskie defense *might* not be as good as we thought they’d be this season.
While the defense held Iowa to just three points and 137 total yards in the first half, in the second half NIU couldn’t manage to get a stop, allowing 215 yards and giving up 30 points in the final 30 minutes of play!!
The Huskies used their amazing pass rush last season to slow down teams, however, on Saturday, they were only able to manage two tackles for a loss, a single quarterback hurry and had just one sack. Star defensive end, Sutton Smith, managed to get his first TFL and sack of the season but only had five total tackles.
NIU also got gashed in the run game, giving up 209 yards on 48 attempts (4.4 yards per carry). Not a great way to start the season.
If NIU wants to get back to a bowl game this year, the defense will need to pick it up...and fast.
2. Rod Carey STILL can’t find an offense
Under Carey the Huskie faithful have watched their dogs’ steadily decline in both yardage and points per game. And, much like we’ve seen too many times before, NIU managed absolutely no offense, especially in the second half. In fact, in the first SIX drives the Huskies had in the second half, they racked up -1 yards of total offense...including giving up a safety! Negative yardage after SIX DRIVES!?!?! It’s unbearable to watch sometimes.
3. Kicking just isn’t meant to be in the MAC
NIU should have gotten out to (at least) a 3-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game...but kicker Andrew Gantz missed a 33-yard field goal. That’s a kick from the 17-yard line. How does a two-time Lou Groza semi-finalist (2014, 2015) miss a kick that short?
Then Gantz had a chance for redemption, as he could have tied it up as the first half came to a close. But he pushed that kick, a 49-yard attempt, wide right to keep NIU scoreless. Both kicks had the leg...but the accuracy was way off.
And we thought things would change after losing Christian Hagan, who went a measly 20-34 (58.8%) over his final two seasons.
4. Childers still needs to grow as both a passer and rusher
The Huskies ran quite a few read option plays against the Hawkeyes...and there were quite a few times when Childers made the wrong read (a fourth-and-two run comes to mind where we lost five yards).
But, even outside the run game, Childers struggled with accuracy on passes over 10-yards or while scrambling. And on quite a few occasions he held on to the ball too long. Now, in his defense, the normally stellar O-line didn’t do their job that well, allowing eight TFLs, five sacks, and three QB hurries. But Childers needs to find a way to make those correct reads and slow down the mistakes, like his red zone interception, because it looks like the Huskie offense might be stuck in the mud unless he’s able to make those adjustments.
5. Alcohol will be necessary for this non-conference schedule
If this is how the first game went NIU fans, like myself, are probably very, very worried about what’s to come when they play Florida State, Utah, and BYU. It could get real ugly if the offense continues to not exist and the defense plays like it did in the second half yesterday.
Hopefully we can correct those failing by next weeks’ game against the Utah Utes, especially since it’s the first time a PAC-12 school has ever traveled to DeKalb and sending them home with a L would be amazing.
But, if not, at least there’s beer/booze. And if you’re ever wondering what to drink, check out Belt’s Beer Garden every Friday for a recommendation.
NIU will be back in action next Saturday, September 8th, at 6:30 p.m. CST against Utah. Here’s hoping for a better Week 2.