The football team’s defense has a habit of coming up big.
In the first two games of the season, the Huskies defense gave up only one red zone touchdown.
Against Army, there was a lot to be desired, but there were several key incidents where the defense came up big to force turn-overs on downs.
“We like to make sure we’re just as conditioned in the fourth quarter as we are in the first quarter,” said senior defensive end Alan Baxter. “I think that mentality is something that a lot of teams don’t have and we take pride in that.”
In the most recent game against Kansas, the defense was able to hold the Jayhawks to 4-16 on third down conversion attempts, including several drives in the fourth quarter to help effectively seal the deal for the victory.
“They were 4-for-16 on third down,” said coach Dave Doeren. “That’s our playmakers on defense making plays, that’s the defensive line getting after the quarterback. Boomer Mays had a couple nice plays in there. Jamaal Bass had a couple nice plays in there at the end. The pressure we’re getting from the front four—we didn’t have to blitz a lot. Coach [Ryan] Nielsen went nuts on the sideline saying, ‘Let them go, let them go, let them go.’ And we did. We cut them loose.”
When the defensive line is able to get pressure on the quarterback is when the defense is at its best. In the Iowa game, the defense posted six sacks and held Iowa to just 268 yards. Against Army, NIU notched only two sacks, allowed 498 yards and nearly 50 percent conversion on third downs.
Against Kansas, NIU turned in a four-sack effort, allowing 329 total yards while supressing the third down efficiency.
“We really like to buckle up when it comes right down to it,” Baxter said. “We know we can come through when we really need to. After last season, it’s really like everyone came back right where we left off. I think that’s the biggest thing is being another year into it with basically the same people and the same program.”
Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch knows his defense can be counted on in big situations and had that point reinforced in the Kansas game.
“We knew we weren’t going to panic,” Lynch said. “I talked to a few defensive players and they were telling me just to stay in it. They got my back. Go down there, get a field goal or a touchdown. Defense stepped up just like they said.”