Toledo has an experienced defensive line with starting defensive tackles Johnie Roberts, Johnathan Lamb and senior defensive end Malcolm Riley. The trio has helped the Rockets rank second in the MAC in rushing defense and fourth in the MAC in total defense. Back-up defensive end Ben Pike leads the team with five sacks, while Lamb and Riley each have two. Roberts has 27 total tackles, showing that he plays well against the run.
NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish said the Rockets experience has them strong at every position on defense.
"They're well experienced, obviously," Harnish said. "They fly around. They're strong at every position, and their whole defensive front is tough."
Seniors Charles Rancifer and Terrell Anderson and juniors Dan Moll and Robert Bell will see time as linebackers for the Rockets. The foursome helped the Rockets hold opposing offenses to 25 points per game, good for fifth in the MAC. Bell is the defensive leader of this group, and leads all linebackers in tackles.
Harnish said Bell will be a player the Huskies will have to watch out for, while the offense will try to limit turnovers.
"[Bell's] a really good player," Harnish said. "They're playing well as a unit right now. They're flying around, and they create a lot of turnovers, and that's one thing we have to be very careful about."
If the Rockets have a clear weakness, it's their secondary. The Rockets rank second to last in passing defense in the MAC, allowing 246 yards per game through the air. Despite the poor stats, senior cornerback Desmond Marrow and senior free safety Diauntae Morrow are first and third on the team in tackles and have 13 pass break-ups and three interceptions combined.
Harnish has respect for Morrow and the rest of the Rockets' secondary.
"Desmond Morrow, he's a good player," Harnish said. "And I really think highly of all of their corners right now."
Senior placekicker Ryan Casano has made seven out of 10 field goal attempts, but lacks range; he is 0-3 from 40 yards or longer. Sophomore punter Vince Penza has split some time with senior Bill Claus. The two punters average below 40 yards per punt, but have placed a combined 11 punts inside the 20 yard line. Junior wide-out Eric Page has proven to be a dangerous return man. Page has returned one punt for a touchdown this year and averages 22.4 yards per kickoff return.