Northern Illinois puts the hammer down on the Bulls in 45-3 rout
The Bulls' defense makes a rare stop, as junior linebacker Khalil Mack (46) takes down Huskies running back Akeem Daniels (3). The 'D' had trouble stopping the Northern Illinois offense, falling to a dismal 1-5 on the season following a 45-3 rout at Huskie Stadium in Dekalb, Ill. Courtesy of Jonathan Fuller
It was a game head coach Jeff Quinn and the football team would like to forget.
The Bulls (1-5, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) were dominated in all phases of the game, and Northern Illinois (6-1, 3-0 MAC) celebrated its homecoming weekend in a big way. The Huskies rolled to a 45-3 victory on Saturday afternoon at Huskie Stadium in Dekalb, Ill.
Buffalo's loss marked the 19th-straight home victory for the Huskies - the third-longest streak in the country - and their 11th-straight MAC victory, which is the highest conference streak in the nation.
The Bulls are in danger of having a losing record for the fourth-straight year after winning the MAC title in 2008.
After holding opposing impact players Tyler Tettleton and Beau Blankenship to pedestrian numbers last week in a narrow loss to undefeated Ohio (7-0, 4-0 MAC), the Bulls' defense could not control the dual-threat abilities of Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch. He played like a man possessed, tantalizing the Buffalo defense to the tune of 232 yards through the air, highlighted by a 43-yard bomb to receiver Martel Moore for a score on the first play in the second half for Northern Illinois.
Lynch ran effectively, too, adding an impressive 129 yards on the ground - his sixth game of over 100 yards rushing this year. He accounted for four of the team's six touchdowns, two via the pass and two via the run (both on fourth down plays).
The Bulls knew of the sophomore quarterback's strengths, but stopping him was another issue. He broke multiple tackles time and time again.
"We just struggled bringing him [Lynch] down," said junior defensive end Colby Way. "He broke one of my tackles, too, and I did not think that he was going to be that hard to bring him down."
The 'big play' victimized the Bulls' defense. Defenders looked helpless, as the Huskies were able to turn short passes and runs into long gains. The Huskies were aggressive in their game planning, going 4 for 5 on fourth down plays and scoring on two of those crucial plays. In total, Buffalo's 'D' allowed 460 yards on the day.
The Bulls entered the contest with the second-leading rushing attack in the MAC. Northern Illinois committed heavily to stopping the ground game, however, and Buffalo finished with a season-low 74 yards - the first time Buffalo was held under the century mark since it played Miami Ohio on Oct. 29 last season.
Junior quarterback Alex Zordich played a decent first half against Northern Illinois, going 12 for 18 and throwing for 115 yards. But the second half took a turn for the worse, as he threw two interceptions trying to start a rally in the second half. With the score out of reach, he was replaced by freshman quarterback Joe Licata, who finished 9 for 20 for 86 yards in mop-up duty.
Despite the offense's troubles, sophomore receiver Devon Hughes had a career day. He recorded a career-high nine catches for 105 yards. Junior wide out Alex Neutz also had a solid game, as he added seven receptions for 81 yards.
A scary moment involved Neutz late in the second quarter, as he was absolutely leveled by Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward. Ward proceeded to celebrate over Neutz and taunt the Buffalo sideline, as Neutz continued to lie crumpled on the field. Ward was flagged for the excessive celebration penalty and was ejected.
Neutz eventually got up and finished the game, but the display from Ward was something that greatly upset Quinn.
"That's certainly nowhere near the kind of sportsmanship I would expect out of any player that plays this game, especially in this league," Quinn said. "It's unacceptable. You want your kids to celebrate with your teammates, don't be coming over to our sideline and start taunting us, and that was unacceptable. I didn't appreciate it; I didn't expect that from Northern Illinois, the defending MAC champs. It's not what I expected, and nobody should expect that."
For the first time all season, sophomore kicker Pat Clarke missed a field goal, a 25-yarder in the second quarter. That also ended the Bulls' perfect scoring record inside the red zone, as they missed out on three of five chances inside the 20-yard line.
After taking on arguably the best three teams in the MAC in Kent State (5-1, 3-0 MAC), Ohio and Northern Illinois - teams with a combined record of 18-2 - Buffalo will take a break from conference action to play its final non-conference opponent. The Bulls will be at home for a change, as they take on Big East foe Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-3 Big East) on Saturday. The homecoming game marks the first time the Bulls have played at home since Sept. 19.
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