There weren’t too many positive things to take away from the Northern Illinois Huskies 44-8 loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers last night but I’ll certainly try to look for the good amongst the bad...
1. Huskie Special Teams play looks both great and terrible.
Yes, NIU’s had two punts blocked and botched a fake punt in the first half...that’s awful to say the least! But the Huskies also found a way to block three kicks in the first 30 minutes. NIU was able to get pressure on Nebraska’s special teams plays and blocked two field goal attempts and an extra point...which kept the Huskies in the game (for a while). However....
2. The offensive line still looks terrible.
Even though the defense gave the Huskies some opportunities, NIU couldn’t get anything going on offense. The main reason was the lack of production from the O-line. On passing plays, especially in the first half, Ross Bowers was rushed and forced to throw off his back foot almost every play. It’s no wonder he started an abysmal 2/11 passing. Plus, the Huskies allowed Nebraska to block two punts in the first half. The O-line play was so bad that, by early in the second quarter, Bowers was punting from the shotgun formation instead of the special teams unit taking the field.
3. NIU’s defense isn’t as bad as the stats would leave you to believe
The Huskies defense actually played pretty well. Sure, they gave up 500+ yards and allowed a 100+-yard rusher for the first time in 17 games...but they did the best they could given the circumstances.
Most of the Nebraska points in the first half came off of short fields that resulted from blocked punts, missed fourth down conversions, or turnovers. Plus, given that they didn’t have Kyle Pugh or Mykelti Williams in the first half AND lost Trayshon Foster early in the game to a targeting penalty...they acutally did OK against a tough Cornhusker offense.
And, in the second half (once NIU stopped giving up short fields), the Huskers only managed 14 points, including a late garbage time TD with under five minutes to go.
Sure, they need to do better next game against Vandy. But they kept NIU in the game for as long as they possibly could given the circumstances.
4. Running the ball is not going so well
The Huskies have yet to establish any kind of ground attack and that has really hindered their offense as it makes them very one dimensional.
NIU has not gained 100 yards in a game yet this season. They’ve gained 90 yards in week one, just 67 against Utah, and were only able to manage 74 on the ground against Nebraska.
If the Huskies are going to get their offense going, they’re going to need to create space on the ground. The 77 rushing yards per game is no where near where NIU needs to be and, with a former running back at the helm, you’d expect more from them on the ground.
5. The D-Line seemed to do better this week
While NIU once again didn’t manage to get a sack, they were able to get seven TFL and force a bit more pressure on the Husker quarterbacks.
The Huskie defense had five QB Hurries this week, which is a significant improvement and a good sign (they had managed just one QBH the previous two games). If they can start converting those QBHs into sacks, even just one or two a game, that will certainly help the Huskie defense get off the field and give NIU a better chance at winning.
NIU is off next week but you can catch them in action on September 28th when they head to Nashville, Tennessee to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores.