Given the fact that NIU only possessed the ball for 17:27 of a 60 minute game, a victory seemed improbable going off that statistic.
However, the Huskies (2-1) needed little time to put up their 41 points, but struggled throughout the game on defense against the Black Knights (0-2). Coach Dave Doeren just wanted the tally in the win column at the end of the day.
“All I care is that we got a ‘W’ and we have to go home and start playing normal football again,” Doeren said in a press conference. “Obviously my hat goes off to Army. I thought they had a great game plan, I thought their kids played really hard. It was a heck of a football game. Our guys overcame a lot in that game to win.”
Offensively NIU was led by junior quarterback Jordan Lynch and senior wide receiver Martel Moore, who proved to be quite the dynamic duo, while hooking up seven times for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
“Jordan and Martel got in the groove today,” Doeren said in a press conference. “Martel made some great catches, Jordan gave him a chance.”
Lynch seemingly did it all in this game, as he also ran for an 88 yard touchdown late in the first quarter to put NIU up 14-7. Lynch finished the game with 342 yards passing, 125 on the ground, and five total touchdowns, keeping Army off balance all game.
“When you start to defend the quarterbacks legs, which you have to when you defend that style of play, you start to run out of guys” said Army coach Rich Ellerson in a press conference. “We hadn’t seen them throw a lot of fades, and we wanted to see if he was any good at it. He is.”
The story, however, came down to time of possession. While NIU was putting up points in quick bursts, Army was eating up yards and clock every drive. Four of the Huskies six touchdown drives lasted under a minute and a half.
“You could see it in their eyes and their body language that we were definitely wearing them down,” said senior Army quarterback Trent Steelman in a press conference. “We tried to attack that. Anytime you see that you want to keep attacking, and that’s the basis of our offense. We wear people down.”
Despite time of possession, a tired defense, and highlight reel plays, the game was decided in the fourth quarter.
NIU was able to score on a five play 50-yard drive capped by a 31-yard touchdown between Lynch and Moore that put the Huskies up 35-34.
Army was able to recover a crucial fumble on a muffed hand-off between Lynch and sophomore back Leighton Settle that gave the Black Knights possession at the Huskies 15 yard line.
Steelman was able to punch in a 15 yard touchdown run on the first play, but Dixon couldn’t convert the two point play.
Following a 72 yard drive capped by another Moore touchdown, that ate up 4:19 off the clock, NIU’s defense had it’s time to shine.
On Army’s final drive of the game, NIU finally came up with the stop it had been looking for all game, forcing the Black Knights to turn the ball over on downs.
“I thought our defensive coaches, although statistically doesn’t show it, made a lot of adjustments throughout the game and the kids did a good job understanding them,” Doeren said. “They finally came up with the right answer there at the end. It was big.”