The blitz that broke a season

By Chris Dertz

Miami (OH) quarterback Austin Boucher said he couldn’t believe NIU blitzed two players on the play that ended the Huskies’ MAC Championship dreams.

On second down, with no timeouts in the last minute of the game, the RedHawks lined up with three receivers wide. To Boucher’s right, Armand Robinson, who had 13 catches for 143 yards at that point, lined up in the slot.

NIU cornerback Rashaan Melvin lined up on top of Robinson, and with cornerback Patrick George out wide in man coverage on another receiver, the Huskies defense clearly showed a Cover 1 with only safety Tommy Davis running deep coverage.

With Melvin lined up across from Robinson, one would figure that you would want to run him in man coverage on the receiver who has been slicing your secondary up like deli meat.

Instead, Melvin blitzed, along with the same-side linebacker Devon Butler, which left Robinson more lonely downfield than a nun in a brothel.

Boucher couldn’t believe both Melvin and Butler blitzed, and neither could anybody watching the game.

After watching the play over and over, it’s still the most head-scratching decision NIU’s coaching staff made all season. Whether it was head coach Jerry Kill’s decision, or the call came from defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, one thing is certain: Whoever made the call to blitz Melvin and Butler single-handedly lost NIU the MAC Championship.

There were a number of missed opportunities for the Huskies earlier in the game that would have changed the entire atmosphere – Nathan Palmer’s missed catch, Martel Moore’s fumble – but you coach to the current situation. You make calls to the current situation.

You don’t blitz two players who would be otherwise responsible for covering the other team’s star receiver, regardless of the fact that he’s been beating your secondary since the day he was born.

It’s a boneheaded call. Pop Warner coaches know not to make that call at the end of a game.

In the end though, it seems like fate. After 2003, 2005 and now Friday night, one can’t help but feel like NIU will never win another MAC Championship. The Huskies’ football program seems to be perennial lawn chairs: always folding under pressure.