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Breaking down Western Michigan's defense is key to Huskie victory

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Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 10:11 pm | Updated: 2:38 pm, Fri Aug 29, 2014.

Quarterback: With senior Alex Carder injuring his throwing hand against Connecticut, junior Tyler Van Tubbergen has stepped into the starting position. Tubbergen has struggled, as he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. He has thrown for eight touchdowns and nine interceptions, throwing three interceptions in the Broncos’ most recent loss against Kent State. Tubbergen is not a threat to run, either, so the formula to shut down Tubbergen will be pretty cut and dry.

Running back: While not even close to leading the team in rushes, yards or yards per carry, junior running back Antoin Scriven is a big threat. Scriven is the team’s leading scorer with seven rushing touchdowns, all of them from one yard. The big physical back weighs in at 219 pounds and has certainly found his niche in college sports. If NIU can stop Scriven at the goal line, they would be the first to do so successfully.

Wide Receiver: The No. 1 receiver threat for Western Michigan is still up for grabs. A true freshman, Jamie Wilson has just shy of 50 receptions on the season for 706 yards and six touchdowns. Wilson will lead a Broncos receiving corps that would probably be flourishing if Carder were still manning center. However, Wilson has still found plenty of success statistically under Tubbergen. Wilson is not a large body at 5’11”, but he possesses good receiver skills that are backed up by the numbers he is putting up as a true freshman.

Offensive Line: An All-MAC selection in 2011, the fifth-year senior right guard Dann O’Neill will lead the Broncos on the offensive line. O’Neill and crew have only given up 11 sacks on the season, which has helped their receivers, like Wilson, put up impressive numbers. They have also been effective in the running game, allowing one back to have more than 600 yards and another to be more than 300. If Tubbergen can start to cut down on his interceptions, the offensive line seems to be giving him and the rest of the skill players a lot of room and time to work with.

Defensive Line: A fifth-year senior defensive end, Freddie Bishop was an All-MAC player last season. This season, he is on the verge of surpassing his numbers from last season in just over half the games. Bishop has posted 44 total tackles in addition to three and a half sacks. Bishop has also broken up a pass, forced a fumble and has five overall tackles for loss. Bishop will lead a defensive and attempt to do what no other team has been able to do: stop the Huskies’ run game.

Linebacker: Junior Desmond Bozeman has been a force for the Broncos at linebacker. Ranking fourth on the team in tackles with 54, Bozeman has made four and a half of those for loss, including four sacks. Bozeman has also forced a fumble, blocked a kick and returned an interception for a touchdown. Bozeman has done just about everything statistically a linebacker can do and will look to show off those talents against a versatile NIU offense.

Defensive Back: A former freshman standout, junior cornerback Lewis Toler is a ball-hawk. Toler posted five interceptions his freshman year, garnering him the Broncos’ most outstanding defensive player award. Lewis is back to intercepting passes this season after posting none last year. Lewis has three this season, including two in one game, and has also chipped in with 20 total tackles. Lewis will be a match-up problem in the secondary for the receivers of NIU if they decide to challenge him.

Special Teams: The secondary running back and primary kick-returner, junior Brian Fields, is second on the team in all purpose yards. Fields has returned 15 kicks but has racked up 342 yards. While not scoring a touchdown or breaking any exceptionally long runs, Fields has been consistent averaging 22.8 yards per return. If Fields can continue this pace, he will help the Broncos fight for better field position against an NIU defense that has been piling up turnovers as of late.

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