DE KALB, Ill. – No. 23 Northern Illinois and quarterback Jordan Lynch typically draw attention for their supercharged offense. After last week, the Huskies' defensive play is getting some notice, too.
NIU (7-0, 3-0 Mid-American) allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards last Saturday in a 38-17 victory at Central Michigan.
"I'm really ecstatic with the defense," Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said. "In certain games . the numbers don't look good but the play has been good," Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said. "Now the numbers are kind of starting to match up with the play."
The Huskies held the Chippewas to just three points and 97 net yards in the second half. For the game, Central Michigan managed just 75 yards rushing on 30 carries.
Northern Illinois now hopes to shut down Eastern Michigan (1-6, 0-3) and running back Bronson Hill, who ran 23 times for a career-high 258 yards and a touchdown last Saturday against Ohio. He's fifth in conference rushing with 752 yards and a 5.7 per carry average.
"They can run the ball on offense and if you can't stop that run, that's going to be a long day," Carey said.
The Huskies are 10th in the MAC in total defense, allowing an average 443.9 yards per game. But they're tops against the run, giving up just 143.6 yards per game.
Carey cited tackle Ken Bishop (33 tackles) and linebacker Jamaal Bass (50 tackles) as recent defensive standouts.
"(Bishop's) preparation has gotten better each week," Carey said. "(And) I don't know who is playing better than Jamaal Bass right now as a linebacker. We ask a lot of that kid and he does it."
Safety Jimmie Ward, meanwhile, is tied for first nationally with five interceptions and leads the team with 55 tackles.
The Eagles will contend with a Huskies team ranked seventh nationally in total offense (519.9 yards), fourth in rushing (304.7) and a quarterback who set an NCAA single game record last week with 316 rushing yards.
Northern Illinois leads the MAC in scoring offense (39.4 points), rushing offense (304.7 yards) and total offense (519.9 yards).
"They really do a nice job of taking advantage of their weapons with (Lynch) and the wide receivers, playing very sound on defense and playing good team football," Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. "I've had them in my top 25 for at least the last three or four weeks."
Eastern Michigan has lost six straight since a 34-24 season-opening win over Howard.
A victory would give Northern Illinois its best start since becoming a major college program in 1969. The 2003 team was 7-0 before a 34-18 loss at Bowling Green.
BIG TIME RUSH — Lynch and running back Cameron Stingily are among national leaders in combined rushing yards by two players from the same team. They've collected 1,658 yards on 271 carries and have a combined 14 touchdowns. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and James White lead with 1,684 yards.
HEISMAN HOPEFUL — Lynch showed up this week for the first time in a Heisman Trophy straw poll in the wake of his record-setting rushing performance against Central Michigan. He was a distant fifth, well behind leader Marcus Mariota of Oregon. The Northern Illinois senior set an NCAA mark for yards rushing by an FBS quarterback with 316 yards on 32 attempts.
BACK IN BCS — The Huskies went to the Orange Bowl last season and debuted at No. 18 in the last week's first BCS poll. They weren't so fortunate in 2003. "Ten years ago at this time on this every week, NIU was ranked No. 10 in the BCS," Carey said. "They ended up 10-2 and didn't go to a bowl game . That was a travesty, it was unbelievable."
ON A ROLL — Northern Illinois has won 23 straight games at Huskie Stadium, both school and Mid-American Conference records. The last loss came Sept. 26, 2009, a 34-31 setback to Idaho. Only nine fifth-year seniors remain from that team while 96 current players have never experienced a home loss. The Huskies also have 13 straight road wins, the second-longest current run behind Oregon's 18.
REED REMEMBERED — Eastern Michigan players and staff were expected to attend a Friday wake for slain junior wide receiver Demarius Reed, killed in a Oct. 18 shooting in Ypsilanti, Mich. Police have made no arrests and an investigation continues. Reed, a Chicago native and Simeon Academy graduate, would have made his second career home state appearance on Saturday.