Rockets and Huskies Put it All on the Line
A lot is on the line in DeKalb and Toledo including vehicles. The Jeep Compass along with other Chrysler products are produced about thirty miles north of Dekalb as the crow flies. Like Toledo, the Belvidere Assembly Plant is expanding production lines important to both cities.
Part of the news in DeKalb is the arrival of a new hybrid and I'm not talking MPG but rather MVP. This hybrid is a cross between a wolf and a Huskie that sheds tacklers and becomes dangerous when disturbed by defensive rushers. His feet give him an agility advantage over other Huskies enabling him to seemingly run on top of turf rather than trudge through it.
With the MAC West title on the line, coach Matt Campbell takes his 8-2, 5-1 Rockets into Huskie Stadium in a show down with NIU head coach Dave Doeren's 9-1, 6-0 squad this Wednesday. The game is on ESPN2 with coverage beginning at 9pm EST.
Huskies on Offense
Of course this "wolf-dog" is junior Jordan Lynch (6'0", 215#) who is truly a hybrid running back who plays QB. Just when you thought the NIU football prowess would drop off with the graduation of Chandler Harnish, Mr. Irrelevant, in jumps Mr. Lynch.
Through games play November 3rd, Jordan leads all MAC players and is 4th nationally with 3,517 total yards, 1st with 1,342 rushing yards and 1st with 210 points rushing and passing combined. He has rushed for 100-plus yards in eight straight games. For the season, Lynch is averaging 7.25 yards per carry, 2nd in the MAC and 134.2 yards rushing, tops in the MAC and 3rd best in the nation.
He's completing nearly 63% of his passes throwing for 19 touchdowns with just three INTs. He has run the ball 185 times compared with 258 pass attempts.
A trio of Huskie RBs have combined for 863 rushing averaging nearly 98 yards per game and 4.7 per carry. The top running back, TB Leighton Settle (453 yards), is questionable for Wednesday after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury.
WR Martel Moore is Lynch's favorite receiver with 51 receptions averaging 14.6 yards per catch with a team-high eight TD catches. Moore is slated to play against the Rockets after injuring his right shoulder in the UMass game. WR Tommylee Lewis is averaging 12.3 yards per reception with five TDs. Another wide out, Perez Ashford, 12.1 yards per catch, has 19 receptions and, surprisingly, zero TDs. Ashford is probable Wednesday recovering from a sprained ankle.
Lynch has three other solid receivers, including RB Da'Ron Brown, who have combined for 36 catches and four TDs. An upcoming star is WR Juwa Brescacin (6'4", 219#) has nine catches in the last four games averaging a whooping 23.4 yards per grab.
The play of the offensive line is one of the Huskies success stories of the season to date. This group, which will take the field against the Rockets, began the year with no previous combined starts. Comprised of two RS freshman, a RS sophomore, a true sophomore and a junior, this unit has allowed just nine sacks in as many games, paved the way for 2,509 yards rushing and generating 4,780 total yards. The Huskies OL is sixth best in the nation allowing four TFL per game. They also lead the MAC in third down conversions converting at a 48.23% rate. Their 72.22%
fourth down conversion stat is second best in the MAC.
Huskies on Defense
NIU ranks second in the MAC in total defense yielding 375.4 yards per game and first in the MAC in red zone defense. The Rockets are second inside the 20-yard line.
The Huskies defense, similar to Toledo, is forcing turnovers and making key stops. Overall, the NIU defense has picked off nine passes and recovered 10 fumbles.
LB Tyrone Clark leads the defense with 71 tackles. A trio of defensive ends is making lots of noise in the oppositions' backfield. DE Sean Progar leads the team with eight sacks, DE Alan Baxter has 7.5 sacks and back-up DE Joe Windsor has 6.5 sacks. NIU tops the MAC in sacks, recording 28 sacks, 23 by the DEs.
NIU is second in the MAC and 18th in the nation in scoring defense allowing just 17.9 points per game. They top the MAC in TFL averaging 7.4 tackles for losses per game.
The NIU secondary is limiting the opposition to just 55.44% pass completion and more INTs (9) than TD receptions allowed (8).
DB Jimmie Ward, second in total tackles, has nine pass break ups and 11 deflections to go with two INTs. Rashaan Melvin has broken up 10 passes while deflecting 10 passes.
NIU's secondary was missing three starters Saturday. Both starting safeties, Jimmie Ward and Dechane Durante, along with cornerback Rashaan Melvin did not play against UMass. S Dechane Durante, dealing with an ankle injury, is doubtful for the Toledo game. CB Rashaan Melvin's knee injury makes him questionable to play against the Rockets. Juniors Sean Evans and Dominique Ware were the Huskies starting safeties. It's not clear why Ward was held out last week as he was not listed on NIU's injury report.
Huskies on Special Teams
Kicker Matthew Sims is 10 for 13 on field goals attempts including a long of 54 yards. He has converted 50 of 51 PAT kicks.
Tyler Wendel has put nearly 37% of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Huskie kickoff coverage unit is holding the opposition, on average, to less than 18 yards per return.
A bit more than 44% of Ryan Neir's 36 punts have resulted in fair catches. He is averaging 38 yards per punt with just seven of his punts being been returned for a total of 14 yards - one punt was returned for 11 of those yards.
Tommylee Lewis is averaging 22.5 yards/return on kickoffs with a long of 43 yards. Perez Ashford return punts at a 8.6 ypr clip but may not play. A.J. Sevastiano and Lewis are capable returners with Lewis being the most dangerous with a 15.8 ypr average and a long kickoff return of 44 yards.
What to Look For:
Both teams to have more than six penalties each.
The Rockets to have a big night passing, tallying more than 275 yards.
Little to no opportunity for either team to have punt return yardage.
Multiple fumbles by both teams with hard hitting and temps in the low 30s.
The Rockets to record at least one INT against Lynch.
WR Jamison Wells, an infielder on the Huskies baseball team, to throw a flanker pass.
David Fluellen to continue his 100+ rushing streak.
WR in motion with Lynch rolling to same side throwing a quick out to that WR.
Filed goal attempts limited to 40 yards or less kicking towards the closed end of the stadium (north).
Alonzo Russell to have five or more catches.
Both teams to have multiple kickoff returns.
NIU to have two QB sacks, one more than the Rockets.
QB Lynch to fake a rush and jump pass to WR just behind the DL.
The game to be decided in the last quarter.
A mass of Huskies fans wearing black as they honor the 2012 seniors, the winningest class in NIU school history.