Key players: Toledo Rockets

By Matt Hopkinson

Quarterback: Selected in the 40th round of the MLB Draft, junior quarterback Terrance Owens is quite the athlete. He’s not a bad signal caller, either, it turns out. The 6’4” quarterback has thrown for more than 2,400 yards on the season, while connecting on 14 touchdown passes to just five interceptions. Owens is also quite capable of rushing, gaining 330 yards on 87 attempts. Containing Owens will be no easy task, and bringing him down will be even harder with his frame.

Running back: The standout player on the Rockets roster is without a doubt junior running back David Fluellen. He is averaging six yards per carry and has rushed for more ethan 1,300 yards on the season, scoring 12 touchdowns. Fluellen still has two games left to improve on those numbers and would like nothing more than to post a huge game against the Huskies. NIU coach Dave Doeren pointed to an unusual characteristic for Fluellen’s success: “He is a patient runner and he is explosive when he puts his foot in the ground. You see him just plant and go.”

Wide Receiver: Closing in on 1,000 yards receiving for the season, junior Bernard Reedy has been the main target for Owens this season. Reedy has caught 68 passes for 907 yards, including six touchdowns. With a long of 65 yards, Reedy possesses unique athleticism, though he is not a large target at just 5’9”. Reedy will present the main coverage challenge for NIU, as last year’s game’s biggest factor, Eric Page, has moved onto the NFL.

Offensive Line: Zac Kerin was listed to the Rimington Trophy watch list for 2012, which goes to the nation’s best center. His standout performance has received high praise from Doeren. “Their center is one of the best in the country,” he said. “That helps when you have the guy in the middle directing traffic and opening up things.”

Kerin will look to lead his offensive line in helping Fluellen find running room and find the best case scenario of pairing a win with a similar performance from last week of 212 yards rushing by Fluellen.

Defensive Line: Despite only making 15 tackles on the season, junior defensive end Jayrone Elliott has posted six sacks on the season. His total is almost three times as much as the next leading player’s on the roster. Elliott has also recorded two quarterback hits and a forced fumble. With the type of production in bringing down the quarterback, the Huskies’ offensive line, especially the end blockers, will need to make sure he isn’t allowed a free pass at Jordan Lynch or a Huskie tailback.

Linebacker: With a whopping 132 tackles on the season, senior linebacker Dan Molls has been either making solo stops or assisting on seemingly every down. The effect Molls has on the game does not end with just tackling, as the senior has also stuffed other areas of the stat sheet. Molls has also recorded five and a half tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, four pass breakups, six pass deflections and recovered two fumbles. With the kind of presence Molls brings, NIU will be hard-pressed to get the ball to an area on the field Molls will not be near.

Defensive Back: Whatever side senior safety Jermaine Robinson is on is the side you would like to avoid. Robinson has nabbed four interceptions on the season, but has returned two of those for touchdowns. The senior has also broken up nine passes and deflected 13 more. Not just a ball hawk, the 6’3”, 205-pound safety has recorded 59 tackles and forced a fumble. Robinson will surely be matched up with the best receiver on the field at the time for NIU.

Special Teams: A watch list member for College Football Special Teams Awards, sophomore place-kicker Jeremiah Detmer has had a pretty good season kicking the football around. At 80 percent success on the season, Detmer has nailed six out of seven attempts from 40-49 yards. If the defense of NIU can keep Toledo at bay and force field goal attempts, Detmer has shown the ability to knock them down. While last year’s game was filled with touchdowns from both ends, I feel the defense will be a much larger factor and Detmer will be forced into a few key field goal situations.