Buffalo to Face Huskies' Stampede on Saturday
The Bulls hope to contain the MAC-leading Northern Illinois offense. Scott Walstrom, NIU Media Services
The football team is at the defining moment of its season this week.
Last week against Temple, the Bulls (2-5, 1-3 Mid-American Conference) were manhandled by the Owls – more specifically the Temple running game.
In 2008, the Bulls rallied after a slow 1-2 start in the MAC, and made it all the way to the Championship game after three conference losses that season. But another loss this season could prove to be more than the team can overcome.
The biggest problem facing the Bulls this week is the Michael Vick of college football – Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish. If the Bulls thought it was tough to stop a running game last week, just think how difficult it's going to be to stop the Huskies (4-3, 2-1 MAC). Harnish ranks fourth in the MAC…in rushing.
One positive that head coach Jeff Quinn has been able to preach to his team following last week's embarrassment is the team's record at UB Stadium this season. Buffalo has gone 2-1 at home this year, but 0-4 on the road.
Buffalo gave fans a reason to be cynical after being throttled last week by Temple (5-2, 3-1 MAC), 34-0. The loss quickly sobered up the blue and white faithful, as they were just celebrating their team's 38-37 win against Ohio (4-3, 1-2 MAC) a week prior.
The Bulls' defense will face a tremendous challenge in stopping a vicious Huskies offense. Northern Illinois boasts the No.1 offense in the MAC, leading the conference in points (277) and yardage (3379).
Quinn was visibly frustrated after last week's disappointing outcome, but he is optimistic about his team's chances against the Huskies.
"Northern Illinois is a very good football team," Quinn said. "But it's great to be back home, and we expect a tremendous effort from our kids getting ready for this football game on Saturday."
The Huskies are coming off a signature win against Western Michigan (4-3, 2-1 MAC). After trailing at halftime, Northern Illinois scored 38 unanswered points en route to a 51-22 victory. The Huskies put up 607 yards, the second-highest output in school history.
Harnish was ruthless against the Broncos, as he finished the game with 432 yards – 203 through the air and 229 on the ground. With his performance, Harnish became just the 11th player in NCAA history to record 200 yards passing and rushing.
Harnish has racked up 671 rushing yards, and he leads the MAC in total offensive yards (2,218). Quinn is well aware of just how threatening Northern Illinois' quarterback is.
"He is a great player and competitor," Quinn said. "We're not going to stop him, but we have to contain him. I feel good about our defense, defensive coordinator, our coaching staff, and our players. We're going to have to play a very disciplined and fundamentally sound football game."
Harnish will look to take advantage of a struggling Buffalo defense. The Bulls have allowed 215.3 rushing yards per game, including 400 yards in the debacle against Temple.
Quinn holds the offense just as accountable for last week's loss. Buffalo ended the game with a deplorable 155 yards of total offense.
Senior quarterback Chazz Anderson had no answer for Temple's swarming defense and threw for an abysmal 84 yards. Sophomore running back Branden Oliver blamed the poor results on a lack of team leadership, but he ended the game with a mediocre 62 yards on 21 carries.
Quinn thinks that if the offense steps up, the defense will be able to do the same.
"We have to do a better job offensively," Quinn said. "We've got to keep [Northern Illinois' offense] off the field. And we need to get our mentality offensively, both in the run and pass game, on our side…that eliminates some of the issues we had defensively."
The Bulls will play without senior wide receiver Terrell Jackson on Saturday. He suffered a horrific head/neck injury after a huge hit on a kick return against Temple. Jackson is recovering, but his return this season is doubtful.
Quinn made sure that his team was prepared to face the Huskies without Jackson's contributions on special teams.
"I had a meeting with the team and I said ‘don't let what happened on Saturday dictate who we are as a team,'" Quinn said.
The odds are against the Bulls for the upcoming matchup, but Quinn believes Buffalo's home field advantage gives his squad a better shot at beating the conference contenders.
"We need to create an antagonistic crowd and get [the fans] into the game," Quinn said. "A commitment we made all summer was taking care of business at home, and we have done that. This will be a tremendous challenge and test for our kids against Northern Illinois."
The Bulls will attempt to upset the MAC Championship contender on Saturday at noon.
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