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Zips football: Three & Out with NIU

By George Thomas Published: October 11, 2013

This week’s Three-and-Out features the observations of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle’s Steve Nitz, how covers the NIU Huskies for the publication:

First down:   The Huskie offense is more than just Jordan Lynch

Sure, Lynch, the 2012 Mid-American Conference MVP who finished seventh in the Hesiman Trophy voting, is what makes the Huskie offense click. NIU just wouldn't be the same without him.

However, he has plenty of help. Junior tailback Cameron Stingily ran for a career-high 266 yards last week, and wideout Tommylee Lewis is a legitimate big play threat. An experienced offensive line is also paying huge dividends. Lynch is a great player, but he isn't doing it alone.

Second down:   NIU has a home field advantage

The Huskies have won 22 straight games at Huskie Stadium, and a 23rd win Saturday would be a MAC record. Expect a big crowd Saturday, as the school announced the game as a sellout Wednesday afternoon. It would be NIU's second straight sellout, as the school drew 23,595 fans for the season opener against Eastern Illinois. Saturday is also NIU's homecoming.

Third down:  Teams have been able to move the ball on the Huskies. Last year's top corner - Rashaan Melvin, has shown to be a big loss. NIU has given up an average of 479.4 yards per game (a total good for 113th in the nation), and Eastern Illinois was really able to move the ball on the Huskies in the Huskies' home opener.

NIU has been able to force turnovers. Safety Jimmie Ward leads the MAC with four interceptions and is one of the best defensive players in the conference.

Fourth and goal:  There are some differences from last year's team, starting with head coach Rod Carey, who took the reins after Dave Doeren left for N.C. State, and there were some big losses off of a good defense. However, Carey spent last year as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach and the players have said ever since he took over that the transition has been smooth.

I think the perception of the program has changed as a whole. The Huskies are already in the Top 25 in both major polls. Without last year's success, I'm not sure they're ranked this early. You're also starting to hear talk about NIU going to another BCS bowl this season, which is a possibility should NIU run the table. In February, we'll see how last year's success helped recruiting.

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