NIU’s play against TTU won’t cut it against Alabama

By Chris Jurmann

Editor’s note: “From the bleachers …” is a weekly column done every Wednesday by Chris Jurmann. Chris will write from his own observations. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Star Sports staff or any of its writers.

Scores don’t always indicate good football. Simply following the scores on ESPN’s Bottom Line made NIU look like a top 35 team beating up on a weaker I-AA team.

The game, however, told a much different tale, which gives me cause for concern as we head into the next “Biggest Game of the Year.”

Tennessee Tech out-coached us for the game. Everyone knew motivating the Huskies for this game wouldn’t be easy, but the staff just didn’t get the job done.

The Golden Eagles’ play-calling fooled us on several occasions, and it seemed like our defense was more intent on laying out players than making the tackle.

The over-aggressiveness resulted in numerous missed tackles and enabled Tennessee to make several big gains on trick plays to offset the Huskies’ talent.

If the Tennessee Tech wide receivers actually decided to catch the passes when they were open, the score would have been much closer.

We have a quarterback problem. I am a big Josh Haldi supporter and wouldn’t want anyone else for our quarterback, but he really needs to improve his decision making. There were several deep throws where you just had to question what he was thinking. It seems like Haldi focuses on one receiver for the whole play, whether that player is open or not.

If Haldi plans to continue floating up passes the rest of the year, hoping defenders collapse just before the ball arrives, the Huskies won’t win too many more games.

This has me wondering. Has there ever been a quarterback who looked as bad as Haldi, yet delivered such outstanding statistics? For the year, he’s 38-of-62 (61.3%) for 518 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Statistically, he has to be the team’s MVP at this point. Yet, when you watch him from the stands, you wonder why he can’t come near the receiver on a 3-yard hitch. It’s a mystery to me. I look at the stats every game and wonder if it was a misprint.

If Haldi can’t get some of these plays together, it will continue to be a long year for Michael Turner. By now, I expected Turner to be somewhere around 350 yards, instead of 224. For those who believe this year’s struggles are based on an overhyped running back, look no further than the 41-yard screen pass against Maryland and the 37-yard kickoff return against Tennessee Tech.

Turner’s still got it, it’s just every time he touches the ball, he’s got four guys hunting him down from each direction. I can’t tell you if it’s the scheme or the blocking, but all I see are defenders with few red jerseys around to combat them.

Did anyone notice Alabama Saturday night, losing by just seven against the No. 1 team in the country, Oklahoma?

Anyone who saw the beginning of the game noticed the camera pan around the entire stadium to show all 83,818. It was scary.

Football is life around Alabama, and the team plans to take us as seriously as it did the Sooners.

This time, we won’t be considered the heavy underdogs and there won’t be 28,000 people there to support the Huskies.

I believe as much as anyone that this team can compete and win next Saturday. I also know they have a lot to improve on from last week in order to make it happen.