NIU, Buffalo ready to run wild

By Brian Belford

After an explosive victory over Western Michigan, NIU restored hope that it can be a winning team at both home and away games

Saturday, the Huskies (4-3, 2-1 MAC) will try to continue their winning ways as they head east to take on the Buffalo (2-5, 1-2 MAC).

NIU head coach Dave Doeren said it will be a difficult challenge because, much like the Huskies, the Bulls love playing at home.

“They’re kind of like us from the standpoint that they’ve struggled on the road and played well at home,” Doeren said. “Statistically, they’re a lot better football team at home than they are on the road. We have a tough challenge this week taking what we do here and trying to do it a heck of a lot better somewhere else.”

The Bulls have been a hard team to figure out. Two weeks ago, they beat Ohio, who was 4-2 at the time, 38-37, chalking up 510 yards of total offense in the process.

Last week, the Bulls suffered a 34-0 shutout loss to Temple in a game where they gave up 400 yards on the ground. The Owls rarely had to pass and held the ball nearly 40 minutes against Buffalo.

The defensive woes don’t paint the whole picture, as the Buffalo defense features sophomore linebacker Khalil Mack, a player Doeren said the Huskies will have to stop in order to win.

“He is one of the best players in our league, if not the best player defensively,” Doeren said. “They’ll put him wherever they think he can [make plays], or wherever they see a protection thing, and they want to try to blitz. Everybody’s talking about how hard he is to block and how disruptive he is. We’re going to have our hands full with him.”

While Buffalo does have Mack, it will have a hard time stopping an NIU offense that averages 39.6 points per game, ranking first in the MAC and 15th in the country.

The main worries for the Huskies revolve around their defense, which has been shaky throughout the season; however, NIU held Kent State and Western Michigan to a combined 393 yards of total offense.

Some reasons for the turnaround have been the pressure the defense put upon itself to improve and believing it can get the job done.

“Up front, we put pressure on ourselves to make an impact on the game,” said junior defensive tackle Anthony Wells. “Lately, the last two games, we’ve been doing that; we just need to keep that up, trusting ourselves and having confidence.”

One player NIU will have to have confidence in containing will be Bulls’ sophomore starting tailback Brandon Oliver, who is second in the MAC with 766 rushing yards.

NIU defensive back Demetrius Stone said the last two games prove the Huskies’ defense has what it takes to stop good players.

“Everybody’s clicking; it shows what our defense is really capable of,” Stone said. “We had a rough beginning of the season, but the last two games we have set the tone where we actually can compete. It set a standard that we can achieve for the rest of the game.”