Despite slow start, NIU topples Buffalo 45-14

Chad Spann outruns two Buffalo Bulls on his way to the endzone (via NIUHuskies.com)

The Northern Illinois Huskies came into this game knowing it was going to be a battle.  Nobody said that the journey for a MAC Championship was going to be an easy one.  The Buffalo Bulls had an extra bye week to prepare for the Huskies and it showed.  Buffalo came in as the #1 defense in the MAC and one of the national leaders in stopping 3rd down conversions.

Kicking Ineptitude: The Trilogy

The Bulls threw all that and the kitchen sink at the Huskies.  Shifts, press coverage, blitzes from all over the field.  The Huskies needed some time to adjust to UB's defensive gameplan.

Sure, the offense was able to move the ball early on, but they kept shooting themselves in the foot.  We get 1st and goal inside the 10 yard line and we don't come away with any points?

The next drive was successful until a personal foul was called on Martel Moore for a scuffle with a defensive back.  The result: another Michael Cklamovski missed field goal.

Again the offense stalls and is forced to punt after a 3rd down and 10 sack of Chandler Harnish.  However, the offense would get right back on the field after the Buffalo punter drops the ball and gets stuffed on Buffalo's 7 yard line.  Harnish would hit Cox on a slant to put the Huskies up 7-0.

The next punt by Buffalo?  You guessed it: Blocked by Jimmie Ward.  The result of the offensive drive by the Huskies?  You guessed it: A missed field goal by Cklamovski.

Playing Hot Potato

The Huskies would like to try and pull away from the Bulls at this point, having dominated the game thus far, but that doesn't happen.  What does happen is Buffalo getting pressure on Harnish causing him to throw a pick-6 going the other way.  This isn't supposed to be a game at this point.  7-7.

The next offensive possession ends in an interception.  At this point, THE SKY IS FALLING.

Whatever.  On the next possession, Pat Schiller forces a fumble right away that Tommy Davis recovers.  Willie Clark continues his breakout season with a 25-yard touchdown reception.

UB's inept offense takes the field again and Chris Smith comes through with his second interception in two straight games and a near pick-6.  Chad Spann puts that one away and all of a sudden it's 21-7.

We've taken control of the game, right?  Not so much as Buffalo scores on a deep 81-yard pass on the 2nd play of their drive.  Chris Smith was caught looking into the backfield and suddenly it's a game again at 21-14.

The Defense/Buffalo's Offense

For the second straight week, the defense shut out the opposing offense in the 2nd half.

Now, I don't know if our defense is actually that good or if Buffalo's offense is really that bad.  I'm going to just go with a little of both.  The Bulls looked flat-out lost on offense.  Seriously, that was one of the worst offensive performances I had ever seen. 

If you take out the 81-yard pass before the first half and the 58 garbage time drive at the end of the game, we only gave up 111 total yards.  Jerry Davis was only 6 of 23 for 20 yds if you take out the blown coverage by Chris Smith.

Power Offense

The inept Buffalo offense put their defense out to dry, as the Huskies were able to pile up yards by running directly at the Bulls.  Chad Spann had 111 yards on a surprising 31 tough, tough carries.

Chandler Harnish had success on the ground, rushing for 75 yds on 14 carries and a touchdown.  Even Jordan Lynch got in the action with a 90 yd run as the game was winding down.

Overall, this was a solid effort by the Huskies even though they still have things to work on.  See: Kicking game, defensive lapses.  You can blame the wind all you want, but we can't rely on this kicker to make clutch field goals at this point.  The offensive line made good adjustments, but the offense has to start out crisper and score touchdowns instead of field goals.

Not bad.  This team needs to peak by the Toledo game. 

What are your thoughts on the Huskies at this point?

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