Face off: NIU to play Toledo Wednesday

By Matt Hopkinson and Brian Thomas

Matt Hopkinson: Well, Brian, with the judgement day of NIU football looming, what do you feel is going to be the biggest factor for a Huskie victory come Wednesday night? I personally feel that the key factor will be for NIU to maintain possession of the ball and limit its turnovers as it has done so well in its nine-game winning streak.

Brian Thomas: I agree that limiting turnovers will be a big key to the Huskies’ success. But I think the key to the game falls on the arm of quarterback Jordan Lynch. Lynch has been stellar passing the ball in MAC play this season and I don’t see that changing against Toldeo, whose pass defense ranks dead last in the MAC. In 10 games the Rockets have allowed an average of 288 yards passing and have given up 21 touchdowns.

MH: I agree that the passing game will be a big key, as it should be an area they can exploit. However, coach Dave Doeren likes to run Lynch a lot. He plays a more conservative gameplan for the most part, throwing in trick plays and bigger passing attempts every now and then. Toledo has already amassed 15 interceptions on the season and also recovered six fumbles. The passing yardage allowed shows a level of susceptibility, but I think Toledo would take a 50+-yard drive on passing if it can force NIU into turnovers via the passing game.

BT: This is true, but good luck getting Lynch to turn the ball over since he got off to a rough start at the beginning of the season, when he turned the ball over six times in the first four games. He threw three interceptions and lost three fumbles. Since then, in the last six MAC games, Lynch has not thrown an interception or lost a fumble.

MH: While these statistics are true, none of the teams in those last six games are in contention or even in the middle of the pack, aside from Ball State. Combined, those six teams on the year have just 20 more interceptions than Toledo alone, and just two of those teams have more fumbles recovered than Toledo, and those totals just being only one and two fumble recoveries more than the Rockets. The Rockets have scored five touchdowns off of their turnovers, four of them from interceptions. While all of the playmakers of NIU have done a good job lately of protecting the ball, they will have to continue to do that to find success come Wednesday night.

BT: I see them along with Lynch continuing that success. Lynch is the most efficient passer in the MAC with a 155.6 efficiency rate. On the season he has completed 162-258 passing attempts to give him a 62.8 completion rate. With senior receiver Martel Moore, sophomore TommyLee Lewis and emerging target in red shirt freshman Juwan Brescacin, Lynch has plenty of weapons to use to exploit the Toledo passing defense.