While I had opined that there was no real possible or legitimate reason for NIU football to lose to UMass, it was still huge that the Huskies won.
The win served many purposes. A less important function: It keeps the Huskies’ multiple streaks (home, MAC and season) alive.
More importantly, it served as a valuable time to rest starters. With the score being 35-0 at halftime, junior quarterback Jordan Lynch left the game in the third quarter, providing rest for the engine that drives this machine.
It also helped senior receiver Martel Moore catch an early breather after coming out of the game with a shoulder stinger. Coach Dave Doeren said he could have came back in, but with the score, it was unnecessary. This time off for starters also parlays itself into increased time for backups and the third string. This gives the underutilized players opportunities to showcase their talents, gain some confidence and gain some field time in case their number is called during the last stretch of games this season.
The biggest test this team will be in for on the season is looming in the next game with Toledo.
Sure, Kansas and Iowa were both in a “bigger” conference and presented tantalizing matchups. In reality, however, this Toledo game is the season.
The experience gained by backups and the break that the players accruing heavy minutes were able to get in this UMass game is unmatchable, especially with this late season bye week.
The other factor that makes NIU’s position seem all the more strong? Even though they played backups for almost an entire half, the offense still scored 21 points without Lynch, and the defense finished what the regulars started and kept the shutout intact.
Last season, Toledo scored 60 points against NIU. This time around, I have a feeling the score of the Rockets will not be as elevated.