The Northern Illinois Huskies will play in their final Midweek #MACtion game this season when they host the Miami RedHawks on Wednesday night.
Miami (4-6, 2-4 MAC) needs to win out to become bowl eligible but the RedHawks have been in a slump as of late, losing three of their last four games, including last week’s 37-21 loss to the Ohio Bobcats.
The Huskies (3-7. 2-4 MAC) will look to keep their winning ways going after coming from behind to beat WMU in the final minute of play last week. NIU might not be bowl eligible, but they still have a shot at a .500 conference record and could potentially still finish second in the MAC West.
When: Wednesday, November 16th at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. CST)
Where: Huskie Stadium - DeKalb, IL
Watch: CBS Sports Net
Weather: Mid-low 30s, snow during the day and possible at game time
Odds: NIU is favored by 1.5 points and has a 61.6% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI. The over/under is 45.5.
Despite long football histories from both schools, this will only be the 20th meeting between the two, whose first meeting was only 52 years ago in 1970. The RedHawks dominated the Huskies in the inaugural game, 48-0, a margin of victory that still holds to this day.
NIU and Miami would split the first four games before the RedHawks went on a five game win streak to pull ahead 7-2. However, not to be outdone, the Huskies would rebound and win the next five games of the series, evening things up at 7 wins apiece after the 2009 game.
In 2010, Miami would shock the Huskies in the MAC Championship Game, scoring a late touchdown after a miraculous 4th-and-forever conversion, and winning 26-21.
NIU would take the next two games in the series to take a 9-8 advantage, their only ever lead in the series. However, the most recent meetings were both very close with the RedHawks escaping with the win in each of them, at giving them a 10-9 lead in the series.
There is no home field advantage for either team in this series, as NIU is 4-4 at home while Miami is 5-5 at home. But if the Huskies can win this week, it will even things back up and be the second week in a row that NIU has ended a team’s bowl hopes.
Points Allowed: 23.0
Yards Allowed: 368.8
The RedHawks are led by Brett Gabbert, the younger brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Missouri Tigers QB Blaine Gabbert. Brett, now a junior, missed most of the season with an injury but returned three games ago.
In those three games, he has completed 62% of his passes for 650 yards and just four TDs. However...he has been sacked fifteen times in those three games, including a whopping seven times in the game against WMU. Last week, against Ohio, he was dropped three times for loss but had his best game of the season, going 20-26 (76.9%) for 244 yards and three scores in the losing effort.
But, like the Huskies, Miami relies on the ground game to get things going. The RedHawks have run the ball 362 times while only passing it 241 times (although some of that was due to Gabbert’s injury). And they do it with a committee of backs - just like the Huskies.
Keyon Mozee leads the team in rushing, with 106 attempts and 455 yards but has just two scores. Backup QB, Aveon Smith, is second with 63 carries for 314 yards. His three rushing TDs is tied with Tyre Shelton for most on the team. Shelton and Kevin Davis are sitting neck-and-neck in third and fourth. Shelton has 54 carries and 231 yards while Davis has 220 yards on 41 attempts.
On defense, Miami has been able to get 25 sacks this season but they have just 51 tackles for loss. They do have 45 pass break ups, which is way more than their opponents, and seven interceptions, so their secondary makes it difficult for quarterbacks to throw against them.
If you’re playing defense against Miami, you need to make sure you know where Mac Hippenhammer is. The senior wide out leads the team with 41 receptions, 551 yards, and seven touchdowns.
After him, there is a trio of great secondary options - wide receivers Miles Marshall and Jalen Walker and tight end Jack Coldiron. They have 19, 20, and 21 receptions respectively. Despite having 19 catches, Marshall is second on the team with 296 yards, while Coldiron is right behind him with 248, and Walker has added 199 yards.
On defense, watch out for linebacker Ryan McWood. His 99 tackles not only leads the team but is third most in the MAC and tenth in the NCAA! He also has 5.5 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries, a pass break up, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Another monster LB is Matthew Salopek, who is second on the team with 87 tackles. He is also one of the leaders in getting backfield pressure, as he has 7.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks.
Behind them are a trio of stout DBs in Michael Dowell, Jacquez Warren, and John Saunders Jr.. They are the RedHawks next next leading tacklers, with 77, 46, and 44 stops respectively. Saunders Jr. leads the team in PBUs, with nine, Warren’s two interceptions is tied for the most on the team.
Up front they are led by Brian Ugwu. The defensive lineman has 31 stops on the season with a team-leading ten TFL and five sacks.
Points Allowed: 32.0
Yards Allowed: 388.0
The Huskies seem to have a different lineup every week and we don’t find out about missing players until game day.
We do know that Rocky Lombardi and Ethan Hampton will be out, making Justin Lynch and Nevan Cremascoli the two most likely quarterbacks for NIU. The past few weeks they have used Cremascoli for most of the game with Lynch coming in sparingly.
Cremascoli, a walk-on true freshman, is more of the passer, with 50 attempts in his two games. He now has 291 yards and three TDs but has thrown four interceptions (three last week in the win against WMU).
Lynch is much more of a running threat, having thrown just 20 passes in his seven appearances. He is 10-20 throwing for 118 yards but has 53 carries for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Lynch gave the Huskies the win last week, when he came in on NIU’s final drive. On the first play he ran it for 52 yards down to the Bronco 25. Then, a few plays later, he powered his way in for the game-winning nine yard TD with just 56 seconds remaining.
Last week NIU went without their top two runningbacks - Harrison Waylee and Antario Brown. Waylee and Brown are the best duo in the MAC by far. Waylee’s 863 yards ranks third most in the MAC and he has also added five TDs on his 151 carries. Brown has 592 yards (8th in the MAC) and six scores on his 105 carries. And those stats/rankings are with them both missing last week’s game!
Without their two stars, they used freshman Jaiden Credle. In his first game as a stater, he carried the ball 36 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. It’s unknown if Waylee and Brown will be back from injuries this week or if Credle will get the start again. But Credle proved last week that he is more than capable of handling the starting duties.
When the Huskies do throw it, Cole Tucker is the go-to guy. The senior receiver leads the team in catches and yards - 41 for 599 yards - and is second on the team with four TDs.
Kacper Rutkiewicz and Shemar Thornton follow behind in second and third, with their stats combining for Tucker’s numbers. The duo has 42 catches (20 and 22 respectively) for 561 yards (325 and 236) and five scores (all by Rutkiewicz).
Defensively the Huskies have struggled for most of the season. However, the past few games they have shown they can make plays occasionally. Against CMU, they forced four turnovers and last week, against WMU, they forced two more plus had a season-high six sacks and added 11 TFL.
Raishein Thomas and Michael Kennedy lead the Huskies up front. Thomas has a team-leading eight TFL while Kennedy leads NIU in sacks (5.5). Thomas is fifth on the team in tackles, with 38 and also has 1.5 sacks, four QB hurries, three PBUs, and a forced fumble in addition to his TFL numbers. Kennedy has 27 stops with 6.5 coming behind the line and 5.5 being sacks.
Linebacker Daveren Rayner leads the team with 71 stops and also has 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, and four quarterback hurries. And Izayah Green-May has been great recently, with seven tackles, a sack, and THREE fumble recoveries (one returned for a touchdown) the past two weeks.
With snow in the forecast, both teams will most likely rely on the ground game. And while the RedHawks have a very solid rush defense, the Huskie have the better run game.
If the snow fades and the weather cooperates, Gabbert could be effective against an iffy (at best) NIU secondary. But, if the weather is bad, I would look for NIU to lean on Lynch and the halfback(s) for a heavy dose of running. If it clears up, you might see Cremascoli throw some for the Huskies if they get down but, in snowy weather at home, look for the Huskies to use a heavy dose of Lynch and whomever is starting in the backfield.
Miami RedHawks - 21
NIU Huskies - 28