NIU turnaround must start with 'D'

  • Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, right, rushes against Northern Illinois' Jordan Delegal earlier this season. The defense is having some issues, to say the least. The Huskies gave up 563 yards and 4 touchdown passes of at least 43 yards in last week's 48-41 loss at Central Michigan.

    Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, right, rushes against Northern Illinois' Jordan Delegal earlier this season. The defense is having some issues, to say the least. The Huskies gave up 563 yards and 4 touchdown passes of at least 43 yards in last week's 48-41 loss at Central Michigan. Courtesy of NIU Athletics

 
 
Updated 10/6/2011 11:30 AM

Northern Illinois' defense of last year's MAC West championship isn't going quite as planned.

The defense is having some issues, to say the least. The Huskies gave up 563 yards and 4 touchdown passes of at least 43 yards in last week's 48-41 loss at Central Michigan.

 

CMU already had lost to Western Michigan, one of Northern's key division rivals, 44-14 this season. Needless to say, this one doesn't count as a quality loss.

"I believe this team is in a process going through some serious adversity on its way to much better things," first-year coach Dave Doeren said at his weekly news conference in DeKalb. "Our defense is not producing the way I'd like them to produce."

Northern Illinois fell behind 17-0 before eight minutes had passed and trailed 38-16 early in the fourth quarter.

After a frantic comeback and two successful onside kicks, the Huskies had the ball at their own 41-yard line with 19 seconds left. But 2 incompletes and an interception ended the game.

NIU (2-3) will try to return to the win column Saturday at Huskie Stadium against Kent State (1-4).

"It's never easy to come back from a loss -- especially when you have a six-hour bus ride coming back home," quarterback Chandler Harnish said. "The last couple days haven't been easy. But today the sun came up, it's a great day, and we're focused on Kent State."

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

NIU's defense is giving up almost exactly 500 yards per game, and at this point Doeren is placing the blame on experience. While the Huskies returned most of their offensive starters, the defense is a different story.

"I don't think there's any panic," Doeren said. "I think the natural thing to do is say, 'Change our defense.' But if we do that, we're back to ground zero.

"We will get better, and the kids will know the schemes better. Honestly, we haven't changed a lot schematically from what they did a year ago. It's just that there are 10 new guys out there."

Opposites attract:

Kent State is experiencing a different set of problems this season -- good defense, bad offense. The Golden Flashes are tied for seventh in the nation in turnovers forced with 13.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But they're off to a 1-4 start after losing the MAC opener 17-10 at Ohio last week. Kent State has taken some difficult road trips, though, losing at Alabama and Kansas State.

"They do a great job of getting to the ball and creating plays," Doeren said of Kent State's defense. They strip it, punch it, rip it; all things that good defenses do.

"They've got a couple players that are top-five players in the league right now, as far as production, their linebacker (C.J. Malauulu) and defensive tackle (Roosevelt Nix)."

Detroit dreaming:

Northern Illinois still controls its own destiny in the division race, but another loss would make things difficult.

"If you want to get to Detroit (for the MAC title game), you're in the playoffs right now," coach Dave Doeren said. "My focus is more on us not beating us, as opposed to us beating seven teams.

"I think if we go out on Saturday and play against Kent State instead of playing against NIU, we have a great chance of winning.

"What I mean by that is catching the ball when it's thrown, executing the play call to the best of our ability, not having a mistake in reading a signal or a mistake in the terminology."