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Published: Tuesday, 11/8/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

BGSU looks to contain explosive NIU offense

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Falcons, pictured playing against Temple, have a defensive challenge when Northern Illinois visits Doyt Perry Tuesday night. The Falcons, pictured playing against Temple, have a defensive challenge when Northern Illinois visits Doyt Perry Tuesday night.
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BOWLING GREEN — A week ago Paul Swan split his time between two television shows.

One was Sons of Anarchy, which the sophomore linebacker on the Bowling Green State University football team said is one of his favorites. The other was “Anarchy at the Glass Bowl,” better known as the offensive explosion between Toledo and Northern Illinois, the Falcons’ opponent at Doyt Perry Stadium Tuesday.

“I would turn it on and there would be a score,” Swan said of the game. “Then I’d turn it off, and when I turned it back on there would be another score.

“Both teams were scoring at will out there.”

That’s what happens in a game whose final score is 63-60, making it the highest scoring nonovertime game in Mid-American Conference history. But that game also underlines the capabilities of the Northern Illinois offense as the Huskies face BG in a nationally televised game Tuesday at 8:05 p.m.

Northern Illinois ranks tenth among FBS schools in scoring offense, averaging 41.22 points per game, thanks in large part to a rushing attack that ranks ninth nationally with 246.78 yards per game. Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said much of the credit for that success goes to the Huskies’ quarterback, senior Chandler Harnish.

“They are the No. 1 [scoring] offense in the conference, and they probably have the premier player in the conference at quarterback,” Clawson said of Harnish. “He can beat you with his arm and his legs.

“They have a veteran offense, with nine seniors, including four on the offensive line. They are explosive. You can defend [a play] right, and they still make you miss.”

Harnish ranks 11th nationally in total offense with 152.78 yards per game, including 96.78 rushing yards a contest.

Even though the Huskies scored 63 points last Tuesday, they still had to hold their breath because their defense allowed Toledo to post 589 yards of total offense and 60 points. While the 60 points allowed are a season high, Northern Illinois surrenders a MAC-high 35.6 points per game and ranks next-to-last in the 13-team league by giving up 449.8 yards per game.

The Huskies have surrendered more than 40 points in three other games — which just happen to be their three losses.

“There was never a dull moment,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said of the UT game. “Defensively we were struggling, and I wanted us to get just one turnover — just one stop.

“We have 10 new starters on that side of the ball, and they’re young. They were disappointed in how they played against Toledo, but they know they have an opportunity against Bowling Green to right the ship.”

So the challenge for the Falcon offense is to score as many points as possible. And the defensive challenge is to not let the Huskies run wild, something senior rover Keith Morgan said is possible.

“One [thing we have to do well], without a doubt, is to tackle,” he said. “When we tackle well, we can compete with any offense.

“And we have to have our eyes in the right places and read our keys. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.



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