Northern Illinois opened last season with a 49-26 win over Army in DeKalb.
That game was never much of a contest, with the Huskies jumping out to a 49-3 lead before clearing the bench, so Saturday’s rematch with the Black Knights (11 a.m., CBS Sports Network) shouldn’t be much of a problem, right?
The thing is, Army is hosting this time and that makes a difference.
Just two weeks after losing at NIU last year, the Knights knocked off visiting Northwestern 21-14.
On the banks of the Hudson River, West Point offers one of the most historic and scenic settings in college football. Army went 3-1 at Michie Stadium last season and 0-8 everywhere else.
“We can’t be distracted by the environment,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said at his weekly news conference. “You have to focus on the game itself and play within that. We’ve got to do a tremendous job of not beating ourselves on the road.”
Doeren said members of the Huskies’ traveling party will tour the campus of the U.S. Military Academy, but the football team is planning to stick to business and treat it like any other road game.
Of course, Army doesn’t play like most teams, with it’s triple-option offense and flex defense.
That’s the part that has Doeren worried.
“They were the No. 1 rushing offense in college football last year, averaging 346 yards per game,” Doeren said. “They run a flex defense that is a difficult preparation. It’s pretty unique in college football, what they do.
“They’re not a big throwing team, I think we all know that. A lot of their pass game comes off of play action. We’ve got to do a good job in the secondary of keeping our eyes where they need to be.”
Ground game makes gains:
Even though the Huskies are using five offensive linemen who had never started a game in college before this season, they’ve been able to move the ball on the ground.
Quarterback Jordan Lynch ran for 119 yards in the opener against Iowa, and junior Leighton Settle gained 106 yards on 21 carries in last weekend’s 35-7 win over Tennessee-Martin.
NIU (1-1) does have experience at tight end with Jason Schepler, a starter in 2010 who was injured last season.
Coach Dave Doeren wouldn’t mind a committee of running backs moving the ball, if that’s what it takes. Senior Jasmin Hopkins was the main guy last year and depth became an issue.
“Last year, Jas was beat up a lot,” Doeren said. “He wasn’t a real healthy guy, and we just didn’t have the ability to run him the way you’d normally run a tailback. So, we used (quarterback) Chandler (Harnish).
“If you can just turn around, knock people off the ball, and hand it off, I think your quarterback’s going to be healthier at the end of the year.”
Akeem Daniels, Jamaal Womble, freshman Keith Harris and receiver Tommylee Lewis also got carries against UT-Martin.
Geneva’s Michael Santacaterina started at middle linebacker last week in place of the injured Vic Jacques. … Safety Jimmy Ward, with 10 tackles, an interception and 2 passes broken up, was named the MAC defensive player of the week. … Army quarterback Trent Steelman is a fourth-year starter. In last week’s 42-7 loss to San Diego State, he passed 1946 Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis for fourth place on the school’s all-time total offense list.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.