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Third quarter turns tide for NIU football

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Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 12:06 am

Football (7-0, 3-0 MAC) has been known to get off to slow starts this season, but it has owned the remaining three quarters, especially the third.

The Huskies trailed in the first half in six of their seven games this season, including a season-high 20-point deficit against the Eastern Illinois Panthers in the first quarter. But the Huskies have been able to respond as each game progressed.

In the first quarter the Huskies have been outscored 83-64. In the following three quarters they have outscored their opponents 212-103. The key to overcoming such slow starts has been the coaching staff making adjustments throughout the game.

“Games are different in the fact that teams play us a little different,” said head coach Rod Carey. “So we have to figure out how they’re going to play us, both offensively and defensively, and then we make our adjustments. We don’t wait to make halftime adjustments, we make adjustments right away, and then we usually get them going. We’ve had some fast starts in games … it’s something we’d like to do … it’s something our guys are responding good — that’s the good news. Now we have to get them going earlier.”

In particular, the Huskies dominated the third quarter this season. In seven games they outscored their opponents 72-20 in the third quarter and have not allowed more than seven points in any single third quarter. They outscored six of their seven opponents in the third quarter, with the one exception being a 7-7, third-quarter tie with the Kent State Golden Flashes.

“I feel like the coaches make good corrections on the sideline,” said senior safety Jimmie Ward. “Then we come into [the] half and they repeat them to us. The offense and the defense, we settle down, and then we start to see what’s going on out there, and I think we come out in the second half very confident.”

The Huskies’ most dominant offensive quarter this season was their third quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers when the team posted 21 points. The offense has scored in 27 of 28 quarters, with the lone scoreless quarter coming in the second quarter against the Akron Zips.

Due to their strong third-quarter play, the Huskies have led heading into the fourth quarter six of seven times this season. The one game they trailed heading into the fourth quarter was when they were down 24-20 in the season opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes, but they still found a way to come back and walk away with a win.

There’s no magical formula for great third-quarter play. For the Huskies, it’s just about making adjustments as the game progresses and situations arise.

“We’ve worked hard to make adjustments in the locker-room at halftime as well as during the first half,” said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. “Maybe that’s contributed to a better third-quarter start for us, but it’s hard to say. It’s really hard to put our finger on, but we just need to make sure from here on out that we try to play every quarter like that third quarter.”

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