Huskies need to stick with what works—the run game

Chad Spann was among the nation's leaders in scoring but disappeared in NIU's 20-19 loss to rival Toledo.

I've been preaching this in my columns all season long. To win the Huskies have to play their game.

And that game, the NIU game, is on the ground, running the football.

While many of us leftover Joe Novak Era guys remember the glory days of Michael Turner of Garrett Wolfe, the offense has progressed under Jerry Kill to a certain extent. I'll take Chandler Harnish under center over Phil Horvath and Dan Nicholson any day.

Kill has converted the Huskie offense to more of a spread offense. However, this isn't the West Coast Offense. Against Toledo NIU found success with Me'co Brown (22-96 yards) but touchdown machine Chad Spann found only six carries, for 28 yards (4.7 ypc). Harnish ran the ball nine times for 42 yards with two touchdowns, Brown adding the other score.

The Huskies have had such a success this season hammering home the "bolt" and "jolt" combination of Brown and Spann this season. Why stop now?

Against Western Michigan on Homecoming, Spann had 22 carries for 132 yards and three scores. Brown had 15 for 92 yards. Harnish threw only 15 times, he had 24 tosses against Toledo, resulting in one interception 15 completions and 157 yards.

With the run game going on all cylinders there is no reason for Harnish to throw over 20 times. Add up the total plays run and he was put in charge 33 times. While Harnish is an excellent upcoming quarterback, Brown and Spann have proven to be the playmakers in 2009. They combined for just 29 touches (28 rushes, 1 reception) against Toledo.

When the Huskies hit Oxford and Miami-OH this weekend, that run game needs to harken back to its three wins. When NIU's running duo gets more looks than Harnish the Huskies are 3-0. When Harnish gets more looks, they are 0-3. One argument could be that NIU was down by large margins but have lost all three games by 12 combined points.

To better illustrate my argument, here's a nice table. It shows the number of carries, yards and touchdowns a game for Brown and Spann, along with the number of total touches, total yards and total scores for Harnish.

Player
Wisconsin (L, 28-20)
W. Illinois (W, 41-7)
Purdue (W, 28-21)
Brown
11-70 yards, 0 TD
14-119 yards, 1 TD
26-154 yards, 1 TD
Spann
9-20 yards, 2 TDs
8-38 yards, 2 TDs
18-80 yards, 2 TDs
Harnish
37-211 yards, 0 TD
20-167 yards, 2 TDs
37-218 yards, 1 TD

 

Player
Idaho (L, 34-31)
W. Michigan (W, 38-31)
Toledo (L, 20-19)
Brown
12-47 yards, 1 TD
15-92 yards, 0 TD
22-96 yards, 1 TD
Spann
4-19 yards, 0 TD
22-132 yards, 3 TD
6-28 yards, 0 TD
Harnish
36-261 yards, 2 TD
21-153 yards, 1 TD
33-199 yards, 2 TD

 

You can see in the Wisconsin loss Harnish had 37 touches, while Brown and Spann combined for 20. In the Idaho loss it was Harnish 36, Spann and Brown 16. Finally against Toledo Harnish had 33 plays to the duo's 28. On the other hand the duo had a 22-20 play advantage against Western Illinois, 44-37 against Purdue and 37-21 against Western Michigan—all wins.

The stats are right there in front of you. If the Huskies want to win games and have a shot for the MAC title, make the other team stop your bread and butter. Which is and always has been the run game. No offense to Harnish, but this team goes as the run game goes. He's just the compliment.

So lets bring that run game from both Westerns and Purdue to Oxford and see if the winless RedHawks have an answer for it.

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