For the first time since 2009, Northern Illinois will travel to Athens to take on the Ohio Bobcats. A victory would make Ohio bowl-eligible for the sixth consecutive season.
The Bobcats are coming off a bye after defeating Buffalo, 37-14. Ohio coach Frank Solich commented on how the 12 days of rest will affect his players.
“We got a little bit banged up in this last ball game,” Solich said. “The time off I think is going to help everybody; coaches, players, everybody.”
The Huskies are riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak, most recently defeating Toledo 27-24 on November 11.
Northern Illinois boasts the top rushing offense in the MAC, averaging 261.7 yards per game on the ground. The ground attack is led by Cameron Stingily, one of six Huskies with over 100 rushing yards this season. Stingily has totaled 706 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in his 2014 campaign.
“They’ve got some big running backs, so obviously they like to pound at you and they’re very good at that,” Solich said. “They basically run the ball more than most teams in the MAC.”
The Huskies’ other main rusher is dual-threat quarterback Drew Hare. Hare, a sophomore, has amassed 687 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground, but Jordan Lynch’s successor likes to show off his arm too. Hare has completed 61 percent of his passes this season for 1,542 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception.
NIU is perhaps best-known for its mistake-free offense. The Huskies have only turned the ball over seven times this season, which is tied for the second fewest in the FBS.
Tuesday is also Ohio’s Senior Night for the team’s 14 seniors, which includes safeties Josh Kristoff, Thad Ingol & Nathan Carpenter, wide receivers Chase Cochran and Landon Smith, and defensive lineman Kendric Smith & Antwan Crutcher.
Ohio rarely faces the MAC West residing Huskies. Tuesday night will be the only third meeting between the two teams since 2009. The Huskies have reached double-digit victories in each of the last four seasons.
“To be able to defeat the top program in the MAC, it will not be easy,” Solich said. “It’d make a statement.”
About the Opponent: Northern Illinois Huskies (8-2, 5-1 MAC)
Location: DeKalb, Illinois
Colors: Cardinal & Black
Mascot: Victor E. Huskie
Notable Alumni: the voice of “Homer Simpson” Dan Castellaneta, actor Wood Harris, actor/comedian Matt Walsh
Players in the NFL: San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Larry English, Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Doug Free and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin
Previous Bobcat Game: 23-20 Northern Illinois victory at Ford Field in the MAC Championship game — Dec. 2, 2011
Current Matchup: 8 p.m. Tuesday — Peden Stadium
Bobcats to Watch
Offense: RB A.J. Ouellette – The former walk-on finally looked completely healthy in the win over Buffalo. Ouellette tallied a season-high 155 yards on 29 carries and reached the end zone twice. Fun fact: in every game Ouellette has scored in, he’s had two touchdowns.
Defense: DE Tarell Basham – The Huskies have the best pass blocking in the MAC, having allowed just eight sacks this season. It will be up to Basham, the Bobcats’ top pass rusher, to disrupt Drew Hare’s rhythm and invade the backfield against the stout NIU offensive line.
Huskies to Watch
Offense: WR Da’Ron Brown – Brown has tallied at least 70 receiving yards in four of the Huskies’ last five games. He leads the team in all-purpose yards with 913 this season. The senior wide receiver is Hare’s top target and also an option for Northern Illinois on the ground. He had two carries last week, but one of them went for 61 yards.
Defense: DE Jason Meehan – Meehan’s seven sacks have him tied for the top spot in the MAC in that category. He’s not an overwhelmingly big end, standing 6-foot-1 and 252 lbs., but the senior uses his speed to get into the backfield. Meehan’s 9.5 tackles for loss lead the Huskies.
Northern Illinois 27, Ohio 17 – The Huskies running attack wears down the Ohio defense throughout the course of the game. Derrius Vick shows better numbers than he did against Buffalo (7 of 18, 118 yards,) but he’s unable to carry the Bobcats to victory.