NIU football defense’s strong start puts Toledo on the ropes

By Jimmy Johnson

NIU’s defense isn’t going to stick its chest out about giving 30 points in the second half of play during its 65-30 victory over Toledo Tuesday night.

The instrumental shut out the Huskies pitched in the first half is what they’re proud of.

“We knew we had to come out there and stop them,” NIU safety Tommy Davis said. “[Toledo has] a good offense and they’ve shown the ability to put points on the board.”

NIU’s defense limited the Rockets’ offense to just 111 total yards of offense in the first half. Toledo averaged only six plays in its five possessions of the first half with a total of 111 yards on offense while being on the field for only 08:20.

The donut hole that appeared on the scoreboard at the conclusion of the first half was too much for Toledo to recover from when the second half started.

“We executed the plan that the coaches had,” said NIU defensive end Sean Progar. “They have a good plan every week and we came out and executed with energy and that’s all we needed to do.”

Third down conversions were hard to come by for the Rockets as they went 1-of-5 during the first half.

The Rockets began to find some momentum on third posession as Toledo put together a 10-play, 60-yard drive to get into NIU’s red zone.

After Toledo wide receiver Eric Paige dropped a Terrance Owens pass, the Rockets had to settle for a field goal opportunity. NIU’s defensive stand would pay off as Rockets’ kicker Bill Claus missed wide right.

Davis was pleased with the victory but was dissatisfied with Toledo’s scoring outburst in the second half.

“It was a great thing to shut them out in the first half but I would have liked to see a zero on the scoreboard at the end of the game too,” Davis said.

Progar noted that the Rockets started using draw plays more often, something the defensive unit will need to continue to work on.

“We need to make sure to make tackles, and don’t let them break tackles and will be fine,” Progar said. “I’m not worried about it.”

Getting a chance for the defense to recover and catch its breath is something that Progar and the rest of the NIU defensive unit won’t complain about.

“Of course the defense loves to see the offense take care of business and they’ve been doing that all year,” Progar said. “They keep us fresh, faster and stronger to play, and it worked out well today.”