Run defense is key to Homecoming win

By Brian Thomas

In the upcoming football game with Buffalo, NIU will have to stop Buffalo’s ground game if it wants to have a shot at winning.

The Bulls (1-4, 0-2 MAC) come into this matchup as a run-first offense, as they have totaled 1,127 yards on the ground in their first five games of the season.

That is an average of 225.4 rushing yards per game, which puts them second in the MAC, behind the Huskies who average 245.7 yards rushing per game.

With that being said, stopping the Bulls ground game completely will be difficult, but the Huskies should be more than able to contain Buffalo.

NIU is sixth in the MAC in run defense, as it allows 187.7 rushing yards per game. However, that can be a deceiving statistic, as the Huskies gave up 486 yards rushing in their game against Army.

If not for that game, NIU would be ranked No. 1 in the MAC in run defense, giving up only 128 yards rushing per game.

The key for the Huskies against the run has been the ability of the defensive line to break through the gaps of the offensive line and force tackles for loss.

As a team, NIU has forced 37 tackles for a loss which has resulted in a loss of 145 yards. Defensive end Alan Baxter leads the Huskies and is sixth in the MAC with seven tackles for a loss which has resulted in a loss of 41 yards.

Defensive end Joe Windsor is second on the Huskies and has contributed 4.5 tackles for a loss, resulting in 32 yards for a loss.

The same type of effort will be needed from them and the rest of the Huskie defense, especially against the caliber of Buffalo’s running backs.

Freshman Devin Campbell is coming off his first career start. Campbell replaced injured Branden Oliver and ran for a career-high 160 yards and touchdown in a game against Ohio.

If healthy, Oliver is an even more dangerous running back, who in three games this season leads the MAC with 142 rushing yards per game. He has added three touchdowns.

If the Huskies can shut down the Bulls’ running game, they should be happy with the result coming out of their homecoming game.