Northern Illinois Week

Northern Illinois comes into this game off a 27-10 loss at Iowa State.  They were picked to win the MAC West title so the Sioux will be seeing a quality team again on Saturday.

NIU Offense:

The NIU offense struggled last week vs. Iowa State.  QB Demarcus Grady was 14-29 for 93 yards and 3 INTs.  He is mostly a running QB with great athleticism so it wasn’t a huge surprise their passing game was that poor.  He did run for 54 yards, however.  There have been rumblings that last years starter Chandler Harnisch, a dropback passer, could be starting vs. UND.  We will keep tabs on it as it gets closer to Saturday.

The run game was solid vs. Iowa State producing 156 yards on 36 carries.  Chad Spann is their guy in the backfield.  Last year he put up 1,038 yards and 19 TD’s and this will be the guy UND has to stop on Saturday.  The Sioux need to be tough up front in this game because NIU is a physical team that will try to establish the run right away.  However, they are inexperienced on the OL which gives the advantage to UND’s experienced defensive front.

WR Landon Cox is their go to guy in the passing game.  This is a guy that could give the Sioux corners problems.  Judging by the success Idaho had with the bubble screen game, I would be surprised if NIU didn’t start flipping bubble screens to Cox to test our corners ability to come up and tackle.  Football is a copycat game.

NIU Defense:

Another base 4-3 defense will be shown by a Husky defense that showed a lot speed against Iowa St. last week.  The defensive line and linebacking groups are both solid.  If there is a weaker spot on this defense, it looks to be in the secondary.  Although I’m not sure how weak that is.  They will show a cover 2 shell a lot and can play different variations of quarters and man coverage out of it.  As the game wore on against Iowa St., they played more natural cover 2 looks against balanced sets.  They seemed to have a tendency go man with the corners to the one receiver side and into the boundary against Iowa St.

While the Husky D seems to be solid overall, this matchup will be all about the Sioux offense and what it can and can’t do.  They absolutely have to do a better job of controlling the tempo of the game.  They can still go no-huddle, but they may need to use more of the play clock in between plays.  Their success or lack thereof should dictate how fast or slow they operate.  They cannot put the UND defense in the same situations as last week (short fields and short breaks in between possessions).  The offense has to stay on the field more this game to avoid the UND defense wearing down late in the game like they did against Idaho.  We need to capitalize on the opportunities this week, and as always UND does not have the luxury of turnovers on offense.

We are interested to see how Jake Landry bounces back this week and how offensive coordinator Greg Breitbach chooses to rotate him and Brent Goska at QB.  Goska is a good changeup, but we also become a little more predictable on offense with him in there.  It would be nice if Goska could complete a couple passes when he’s in there to loosen up the NIU defense against the run.

Was last week’s performance on offense an aberration or a sign of things to come in 2010?  It has been said that the biggest improvement for a team usually happens occurs between game 1 and game 2.  Hopefully that happens for UND and not NIU this week.

Our prediction:

Last week’s game vs. Idaho is over and done with.  If the Sioux players can realize that they will have a shot to hang around in this one.  NIU is not Idaho, the defense is close but the offense if nowhere near as good.  It is going to all come down to the Sioux offense.  Simply put, they must hold on to the ball once they get into the opponents red zone.  Getting points early, even a FG, will be a momentum builder.  With that being said, this is still an FBS team and we have seen how the Sioux play vs. those teams.  Until something changes, we need to be realistic.

Northern Illinois 28

North Dakota 13

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