Huskies go big on fourth down

By Brian Thomas

NIU football’s aggressive style of play paid off in a big way in its 45-3 victory over Buffalo Saturday.

On five occasions when the Huskies were not able to convert on third down, they decided to forgo a field goal or punt and go for it on fourth down.

On four of those five attempts, NIU was successful and converted on fourth down. What makes these conversions so key for the Huskies was that each conversion led to an eventual touchdown.

In the first quarter on a fourth and one at the Buffalo 21-yard line, junior quarterback Jordan Lynch ran a sneak for a 7-yard gain to continue the Huskies’ drive. Two plays later, sophomore wide receiver Da’Ron Brown scored a 12-yard touchdown on a reverse, giving the Huskies a 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the Huskies were facing a fourth and seven at their own 40-yard line when they ran a fake punt. Sophomore tight end Luke Eakes took a direct snap and rushed for a gain of 32 yards, picking up another Huskie first down.

“It was awesome,” Eakes said. “I saw all the players slant. I knew I had Jason Schepler as a lead blocker. With Jason Schepler in front of me, no one is really going to get to me. Pretty easy on my part. Just get the snap and run.”

On the same drive, NIU faced another fourth and one from the Buffalo 1-yard line. Junior running back Akeem Daniels was able to reach the outside and score on a 1-yard rushing touchdown.

With the Huskies facing a fourth and two from the Buffalo four yard line, Lynch was able to rush into the endzone for a 4-yard touchdown, his second of the day.

In total, by the Huskies converting on these four fourth down conversions, they were able to score three touchdowns, leading to 21 points.

Some coaches will play it safe and kick a field goal or punt the ball away and play a game of field position, but coach Dave Doeren has all the confidence in the world in his offense’s ability to pick up a first down.

“It keeps our defense off the field and changes field position,” Doeren said. “Particularly when it’s a fourth-and-three and you get a touchdown out of it, those are big plays. If I didn’t go for it, these guys would probably be mad at me, too. You have to be that kind of guy if you’re an aggressive coach. Backing down on fourth-and-one, that’s not what you stand for. I’m not going to do that.”

Eakes and the rest of the offense enjoy playing for a coach that will give them a chance to convert on fourth down.

“That’s awesome to know that he has the faith that we’ll get the first down,” Eakes said. “It’s just good to have.”