No need to panic

By Chris Dertz

DeKALB | One could almost feel the Huskie fans’ collective hand hovering millimeters over the panic button in the first half of Saturday’s game against Buffalo.

Things returned to form by the time the game was over.

If anything, this is simply the first week of the season that the Huskies didn’t see an overall marked improvement from the previous week.

The fact that they’d kept it up for that long is a miracle in and of itself. Also consider that leading up to this game, Buffalo was on a bye week, giving them two weeks to prepare for the Huskies.

The first half, if nothing else, can serve as a reality check for Huskie fans who were flying high after the Temple victory.

Yes, DeKalb is still an extremely windy place that can wreak havoc on a kicking game. While Michael Cklamovski seemed to have everything figured out, missing three field goals doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in a kicker.

But it was windy enough on that field to give Bill Paxton chills. The two misses from chip-shot distance were bad, yes, but Cklamovski came back and hammered one through in the third quarter, and it’s better to end on a good note.

Quarterback Chandler Harnish will want to forget parts of this game. He made a few bad decisions he would surely like to have back, but a mediocre game from a quarterback who’s been playing at an all-conference level is inherently going to look worse.

The fact of the matter is that Harnish wasn’t going to go an entire season completing 80 percent of his passes and committing no turnovers. It just wasn’t going to happen, so there’s reality check number two.

Peyton Manning has bad days, so it’s only fair to allow Harnish to have some, too.

If NIU fans can take heart in anything, it’s that the defense finally had a signature game that they can see a beaten-up unit take full control of. The defense allowed the Bulls only 10 first downs.

After the game, Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn called the Bulls’ number of three-and-outs “unacceptable.”

NIU’s defense forced six three-and-outs, and had another two drives that they cut short by way of turnovers.

They might not be the best unit in the MAC again, but it looks like this defense is back to getting big stops the way it has the past couple seasons.