CFN Bowl Analysis ... Human.
NIU 40 ... Fresno State 17
Really, Fresno State? Really?!
It’s absolutely amazing how Fresno State can get so up for games against BCS teams and then fail to show up against a MAC team without its head coach. It’s not like the Bulldog offense was awful, though, with Ryan Colburn throwing well for a while, but the defense must have panicked when it saw the blue turf of Boise and reverted to its normal form whenever it faces the Broncos.
Of course, facing a jacked up NIU team that was the best in the MAC – yeah, yeah, Miami, we’re all aware of your work – had something to do with it. Tom Matukewicz stepped in for now-Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill and got the offense to play balanced, mistake free, and with explosion as the Huskies appeared to be on a mission. This should’ve been a go-through-the-motions game for a team coming off such an emotional letdown on the field and in the coaching staff, but instead, it turned out to be a great time for one of the best performances of the season.
But NIU is still a program in transition while Fresno State has to figure out what it’s going to do next with the status quo. Pat Hill did a fantastic job of getting of getting the program on the national map, but the big wins need to start coming more regularly, especially with the move to the Mountain West.
What do you need to know about Fresno State and how it plays in certain games? The program is 4-4 in its last eight bowl games. The four wins came over Georgia Tech twice, UCLA, Virginia, BCS schools all, and the four losses came against Tulsa, Colorado State, Wyoming, and Northern Illinois. The problem for Hill is that the team has lost its last three bowls. It isn’t getting better.
- The NIU offensive front destroyed a Fresno State defensive line that’s been great all year at getting into the backfield. The Bulldogs came into the game sixth in the nation in sacks and 21st in tackles for loss, and they failed to register a sack and came up with a mere two tackles for loss.
- NIU defensive end Jake Coffman questioned whether or not he wanted to come back for one more year. The 26-year-old Marine (is there such thing as a former Marine?) closed out his career with a bang wit three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
- It was almost like the Huskie defense was trying to make up for the Miami gag on every play. How much would QB Chandler Harnish like the MAC Championship game back now?
- NIU averaged 7.2 yards per carry. Fresno State averaged 2.1.
- Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn is tough as nails. He didn’t throw for a ton of yards and he didn’t get rid of the ball quickly enough, but he took a licking and was accurate throughout.
That’s an example of what you’ll be getting from Jerry Kill, Minnesota fans.
Kill may not have been in Boise for the Humanitarian Bowl, but his fingerprints were all over the rout of Fresno State. That was his Northern Illinois team that ran the ball right down the throats of the Bulldogs, protected the quarterback against a salty pass rush, and was fundamentally sound on defense. Tom Matukewicz did a real nice job as the interim coach. Dave Doeren takes over after the Rose Bowl. However, this was a Kill production on both sides of the ball. The Gophers are an entirely different challenge, but based on his track record at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois over the past decade, he’ll make tangible progress in due time.
- Midwest backs not getting any love from the Big Ten would be wise to consider DeKalb. Northern Illinois has turned into a mini-running back factory, churning out the likes of LeShon Johnson, Michael Turner, Garrett Wolfe, and now Chad Spann.
- Pat Hill is a nice coach with a good shtick, but he’s been living off his old conquests for far too many years. In a game of supposed equals, how does Fresno State arrive in Boise this poorly prepared? Hill was out coached by an interim guy who’ll be the Huskies’ linebackers coach tomorrow morning.
By Matt Zemek
Tom Matukewicz didn’t have an easy task entering the Humanitarian Bowl. The interim coach of the Northern Illinois Huskies enjoyed a close and meaningful bond with former boss Jerry Kill, who pursued greener pastures in the Big Ten with the University of Minnesota. Matukewicz had to rally his players, who lost their leader just days after dropping the MAC Championship Game to Miami in an all-time heartbreaker. Moreover, the Huskies realized that they were playing this game against Fresno State less than a fortnight (two weeks) after enduring a painful period of coaching-based transition. However, instead of allowing distractions and a certain amount of sorrow to overwhelm their minds and hijack their bodies, the Huskies engaged in a pre-Christmas sleigh ride.
NIU’s level of ghitty-up easily exceeded the amount of fuel Fresno brought to the fray. The result wasn’t just a win for the Huskies, but a comprehensive clocking of a WAC team that Boise residents – now headed for the Mountain West Conference – didn’t feel the need to support. With very little energy at Broncos Stadium for this contest, the winner was going to be the team that generated its own energy and sustained its own internal momentum. Northern Illinois was clearly the team that met the moment, and that’s a great credit to both the Husky coaching staff and its players. The Mid-American Conference basked in the glow of the Idaho evening, and Northern Illinois earned the right to smile throughout its upcoming offseason. The bitter taste of defeat in Detroit (on Dec. 3 against Miami University) has now been expunged.
--The horrible loss to Colorado State in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl was embarrassing. The loss to Wyoming in the 2009 New Mexico Bowl was shameful. Why did idiotic columnists such as this one pick Fresno State to win the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl? Sure, Northern Illinois faced a lot of transition and turmoil, but Fresno State has been a dog with fleas – not a mighty and snarling Bulldog – in each of its last three bowl games. Another year has come and gone in college football, and Fresno State – which beat AQ-conference foe Illinois on Dec. 3 – couldn’t muster the same amount of energy for a team from a non-AQ conference. Pat Hill has to drum it through his players’ thick skulls: You build respect not just by spilling the tank against the heavy hitters, but by taking care of business against the little guys. That’s how the host institution for the Humanitarian Bowl – Boise State – built its brand name: The Broncos wouldn’t have even made the 2007 and 2010 Fiesta Bowls if they didn’t first run the table in the WAC. Next year in the WAC, and then come 2012 in the Mountain West, the Bulldogs have to play with the same amount of passion and purpose. Three straight no-shows in bowl games is a notable stain on the boys from the Valley.
--Priority number one for Fresno in 2011 has to be the quarterback spot. It’s alarming that Hill had no one better to turn to this season than Ryan Colburn, a balky and inconsistent signal caller who made poor reads, didn’t showcase a big-time arm, and lacked any semblance of pocket presence. The Bulldogs have solid component parts on their offense, but without a good trigger man, they were easily outclassed by the upper-tier teams in the WAC… and by Northern Illinois. This program needs an elite quarterback to be special, and notice that the word “again” isn’t following the word “special.” Why? Because Fresno has never really been special under Hill. As 2010 fades into the history books, it needs to be noted that Fresno State has won only one WAC title – and a three-way split one at that (with Hawaii and TCU) – in the Hill era.