Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium
Five games into the 2015 season, Northern Illinois owns a losing record (2-3), is 0-1 in MAC play and is currently on a three-game losing streak. It’s the first time since 2009 that the Huskies have lost three straight, including last week’s 29-19 setback at Central Michigan. Not surprisingly, some of the media questions this week inquired about any extra “sense of urgency” for this week’s matchup with Ball State in DeKalb.
“We have one football game in front of us right now and that’s what we have to put all of our focus into,” head coach Rod Carey said. “You got to understand, when we go ahead and prepare for a football game, it’s not like we go, ‘Oh gosh, maybe we should do this because we lost three in a row (or) maybe we should do that because we lost.’ We don’t do that. Each game is its own life and its own season and that’s how we go about things.”
A win, no doubt, wouldn’t exactly hurt the Huskie psyche right now. Additionally, it would pull NIU to an even .500 overall and in the conference. With several of the MAC’s more powerful programs right now in the West, there is a decent chance that the eventual division winner could have one loss.
Like the Huskies, Ball State comes Week Six with a 2-3 overall mark. A 24-10 loss to Toledo last Saturday dropped the Cardinals to 1-1 in MAC play.
Let’s take a look at the two teams.
The Cardinals are coming off a loss in which they held the very potent Toledo offense scorless in three of the four quarters. There was considerable damage in the second quarter, however, as UT scored 24 straight points. The hosting Cardinals put up a field goal as time expired in the second period and added a fourth quarter TD.
-- All three Ball State losses were against teams currently in the AP Top 25: Texas A&M (9), Northwestern (13) and Toledo (24).
Freshman quarterback Riley Neal completed 23 of 37 for 236 yards with one touchdown in the Toledo loss. He has completed 60.5 percent on the year, with four TDs and no interceptions.
-- NIU COACH ROAD CAREY ON NEAL: "They have a true freshman quarterback that’s playing for them. That I think is showing signs that he’s not a true freshman anymore. He’s played quite a bit of football for them. He’s a big kid, tall, hard to bring down. You wouldn’t think he’s that quick or that fast and then you watch him and he’s running by people. So I think he’s doing really well he’s really giving life to their wide outs."
-- Jordan Williams leads the team in catches (30, fifth MAC), and receiving yards (447, 4th MAC). The senior owns four of Ball State's five passing TDs. KeVonn Mabon has hauled in 26 passes for 213 yards.
-- Sophomore Darian Green (5-8, 176) tops BSU rushing with 64 carries for 417 yards (6.5 ypc) and four TDs. Freshman James Gilbert (5-8, 191) has also kept busy with 54 rushes for 241 yards and five scores.
-- Ball State's 190.8 ypg rushing average tops the conference. Toledo, which leads the MAC in rush defense, held BSU to 26 yards on 30 carries.
-- The Cardinals rank eighth in both scorign offense (25.6 ppg) and scoring defense (31.4 ppg).
-- Linebackers Ben Ingle (42) and Sean Wiggins (41) lead the Cardinals in tackles.
Kicker Morgan Hagee has converted 8 of 12 field goals and 14 of 15 PAT boots. His longest field goal has been 43 yards.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (2-3, 0-1 MAC)
At least in the loss last week at Central Michigan, turnovers were the big problem. Northern owned a 10-3 halftime lead, but turnovers fueled a 23-point third quarter for the hosts. The Huskies registered three second half fumbles and an interception.
-- ROD CAREY ON NIU MISCUES: "“The mistakes that I’m talking about is four turnovers in a quarter and eight penalties, three of which are self-inflicted which I mean pre-snap ... The interception was a bad read and all six fumbles was a ball handling issue. None of them had to do with the snap so it was straight ball handling as far as catching and securing the football."
-- Through five games, NIU is tied for third (MAC) in scoring offense (28.2 ppg) and sixth in scoring defense (24.4 ppg).
-- The Huskies are 10th in total offense (369.4 ypg) and fourth in total deense (353.0 ypg).
-- Northern Illinois is fifth in rushing offense (166.4 ypg) and 11th in pass offense (203.0 ypg).
-- NIU ranks fourth in total defense (353.0), with a fifth place showing in rush defense and fourth place rank in pass defense.
-- Only Kent State (10) has more interceptions than NIU (9). Sophomore Shawun Lurry leads the MAC and is second nationally with five picks. "He’s making the most of his opportunities," said fellow DB Paris Logan. "If the ball’s coming his way, he’s going to take it. I mean he’s going to get it. Right now, he’s playing amazing. He’s playing unbelievable and hopefully he continues to play that way.”
-- Boomer Mays leads the Huskies with 40 tackles, while Sean Folliard leads the way with 6.0 TFL.
-- Quarterback Drew Hare is hitting 58.8 percent of his passes with six TDs and three intercetions. He ranks 10th in pass efficiency. Hare is also second in rushing, picking up 152 yards on 68 carries. Joel Bouagnon leads the Huskies with 99 carries, 442 yards and eight touchdowns.
-- Kenny Golladay, a transfer from North Dakota, is averaging 87.4 ypg and ranks 23rd in the nation in receiving yards (437).
-- With a win, Northern Illinois would win the Bronze Stalk Trophy, which goes to the NIU-BSU winner. Northern has won the last six meetings, but Ball State holds a 20-19-2 edge.