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September 21, 2012To get a closer at the KU/Northern Illinois game we caught up with Steve Nitz. He is the beat writer covering Northern Illinois football for the Daily Chronicle.
Talk about what makes Jordan Lynch so dangerous. How different is his game than Harnish?
Lynch and Chandler Harnish are similar quarterbacks, although Lynch is a better runner, even though that may be hard to believe. Lynch's passing game has improved throughout the season, and he can put up some yards against defenses if they decide to key on the run. He's dangerous in that he can beat you in so many different ways. Last week, Army decided to limit NIU's rushing attack, and Lynch threw all over that defense.
What type of defense does Northern Illinois run and what are their strengths?
NIU runs a basic 4-3 defense. The Huskies have an experienced line with players like senior defensive ends Sean Progar and Alan Baxter (3 sacks), senior tackle Nabal Jefferson and junior defensive tackle Ken Bishop, a junior college transfer. NIU has done a good job getting to the quarterback, with nine sacks so far. The linebacking core is strong with Tyrone Clark (17 tackles last week) and Jamaal Bass on the outside. Senior cornerback Rashaan Melvin has shutdown ability and safety Jimmie Ward leads NIU with 33 tackles.
The offensive line had to replace a lot of guys. How have they performed?
The offensive line was the Huskies' biggest question mark heading into the season, and I think the group has performed well so far, despite having five new starters. NIU didn't allow a sack last week, and has been able to protect Lynch, and open up some holes in the running game.
Who are some of the other players to watch on offense?
Senior wideout Martel Moore is a real solid player, he hauled in seven passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Army. Sophomore wide receiver Tommylee Lewis is mainly known for his kick returning ability, but he made some nice plays at receiver last week and the coaching staff can use him in a number of different ways. Running back was a question mark before the season, but junior Leighton Settle has kind of become the go-to guy there. He didn't do a whole lot against Army however, just five carries for 19 yards.
Dave Doeren is a former KU coach and grew up in Kansas City. How has he done going into his second season with the program?
I think Doeren's done a good job with this team. It's hard for anyone to disagree seeing what happened last year, when NIU won its first conference championship since 1983. Doeren's a guy with a defensive background, and the defense improved drastically as last season went on despite getting off to a terrible start. At the same time, Doeren took over a team that was pretty loaded, so he still hasn't won with his "guys" so to speak. Still, the program has picked off right where Jerry Kill left it before heading to Minnesota. If Doeren keeps putting together good seasons, he could certainly be headed for a BCS job as well.
How do you see this match-up and how do you think the game will play out?
I'll be honest, I was surprised to see the Huskies open up as a 10-point favorite. Kansas has run the ball well and NIU has had some trouble stopping the run, although a lot of defenses are going to have problems against the triple option. The defense's main problem has been forcing turnovers, the group hasn't got one against an FBS team so far this season.
NIU should be able to score points against the Jayhawks, and at home, I have to take the Huskies here. I'll say 28-24. Still wouldn't be shocked to see the score the other way around.