The Northern Illinois Huskies dominated the game against the Temple Owls in Huskie Stadium on Saturday. The score should have even been more lopsided than it was. We gave the Philly faithful all the chances in the world, but the Huskies still came out on top.
Act I: The Opening Fumble
All week, Coach Kill talked about how the Huskies couldn't turn the ball over in this game if we wanted to win. Then what happens on the first play of the game? A Chad Spann fumble. It wasn't the fault of the QB or RB, the Temple defender just made a good play on the ball. The defense was rattled and a Matt Brown 25-yard TD completed a short drive for the Owls that started on just the NIU 29 yd line.
This was pretty much like giving Temple seven points right off the bat to start the game. Against a lesser opponent I thought we could survive this, but at least the Huskies wouldn't turn the ball over again this game. 7-0 Temple.
Act II: The Drive(s)
It was up to the offense to make a statement at this point, and Harnish and co. did exactly that with a 15 play, 80 yard drive that took up 7:39 of time off the clock and resulted in a TD by true freshman Akeem Daniels on an end-around. The first drive had four different converted 3rd down conversions, an appearance by Jordan Lynch running the wildcat/option and DeMarcus Grady playing decoy WR. 7-7.
It was offensive genius and efficiency that we hadn't seen this season against a team with top-talent like Temple had on their defense.
The next drive? 18 plays, 82 yards and 8:51 off the clock. NIU only got a field goal, but this was instrumental in not only giving our defense a rest, but keeping the Temple offense off of the field. 10-10.
Act III: The Helmet Removal
After neither team could force the other to make a single stop in the first half, the Huskies came out amped up on defense on the first series after halftime. Temple gets one first down, but then they try to go for it on 3rd and 4 on their own 41 yard line.
Then BAM, a 9-yard sack by Devon Butler or is it? OH NO!! He got a 15-yarder for taking his helmet off on the field. All the momentum in the world then shifted right back over to Temple and the defense could have felt deflated at that point. However, the defense rallies and ends up stopping Temple at the 25-yard line resulting in a missed 42-yard field goal by Brandon McManus.
Butler is only a true sophomore and he's played phenomenal so far this season. He'll learn and move on. 17-17.
Act IV: The Not So Special Teams (or secondary)
The first breakdown was the kickoff after NIU's 2nd big drive that was returned 55 yards to the NIU 45 yard line. That gave Temple a good enough field position to punch it in for seven and go up 17-10.
Josh Wilber had a punt blocked late in the 3rd quarter. This was Temple's chance to score as the Huskies were only up 24-17. Helped out by three different false start penalties, the drive by the Owls was halted. Oh and on 3rd and 14, Temple had a wide open receiver downfield, but Chester Stewart overthrew him. 24-17 Huskies.
As time was winding down, Wilber also booted a kick that was returned 38 yards to the NIU 25. Come on now, why can't our special teams just be able to put teams out of even coming close to getting back in the game?
Act V: Putting it Away
After a Chad Spann superman TD to put the Huskies up 31-17, Chester Stewart comes out and throws an interception to Chris Smith to pretty much seal the deal for this game.
The next drive by Temple results in an 8 yard sack by Corporal Jake Coffman and a tackle by Pat Schiller off of his miraculous return from an ACL injury. Talk about an epic way to end things.
So that's it. We just beat the best team in the MAC. I kind of feel weird right now, because by nature we're supposed to lose these games. I just don't get it. Where did this dynamic offense come from? The problem in 2006 when we were picked to win the division was that Garrett Wolfe was our only offensive option.
Now we have Harnish, Clark, Palmer, Cox, Moore, Ashford, Daniels, Crider, Lynch...the list goes on. They kept the Temple offense off the field and that may have been the biggest difference in this one (38:10 to 21:50). The defense pitched a shutout in the 2nd half. The only way the Huskies are going to lose is if they beat themselves.