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at Northern Illinois 49 … Army 26

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 3, 2011


Week 1 CFN Fearless Prediction - Army at Northern Illinois

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 1 - Army at Northern Illinois

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Sept. 3 at Northern Illinois 49 … Army 26
CFN Analysis: The NIU running game was business as usual with Jasmin Hopkins taking over the job left by Chad Spann and running for 138 yards on 14 carries. As good as the ground game was, this was the Chandler Harnish show completing 12-of-19 passes for 195 yards and five scores with a pick, while running 11 times for 80 yards and a score. The passing production was spread around with five different players catching touchdown passes. The run defense struggled against the great Army ground game, but the Huskies got up so big so fast that it didn’t matter. If Harnish can stay this good, and if the offense can roll like this against a good team like Army, who should end up in a bowl, then Kansas is in big trouble next week.

Army got the ground game moving with 303 yards and three touchdowns, and Steve Erzinger was in on seemingly every play with 21 tackles, but there were too many errors – turning it over three times, and too many problems in the secondary to keep up with NIU. The Knight ground game needs to control the clock and needs to control the action, it wasn’t able to do that early, and the results were ugly in the first half. The defense is going to be an issue all season long against the better passing teams, and next week’s comes a date with Ryan Lindley and San Diego State. Army has to control things from the start, or it’ll have to try to play catch-up again; this isn’t a team that can play catch-up.

(AP) DEKALB, Ill. -- Chandler Harnish helped give new Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren a win in his debut.

Harnish tossed a career-high five touchdown passes and rushed for another to lead the Huskies to a 49-26 victory over Army in his head coaching debut on Saturday.

"It feels good," he said. "But at the same time in there are a lot of things in the course of the game that you need to work on. I was a little sloppy with the ball tonight."

Harnish threw for three TDs in the opening 18 minutes as the Huskies (1-0) took a 28-6 lead on the Black Knights (0-1).

"We didn't give them our best shot and that's my fault," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "We pride ourselves on being a poised, precise outfit and we were anything but at times and that's hard to take. We're not there, but we'll get there."

Courtney Stephen started Northern's big scoring day when he scooped up a block punt for a 16-yard touchdown run.

"The start of that game couldn't be any better," Doeren said. "Three and out on defense, a blocked punt for a touchdown. It's as good as it gets ... and the first three quarters with the starters in the game, those guys played really well."

The win was Northern Illinois' first over a service academy in four tries. The Huskies dropped a 21-14 decision at Army in 1992 and lost both games of a home-and-home series with Navy in 2007 and 2008.

Huskies' tailback Jasmin Hopkins rushed 14 times for 138 yards.

Doeren, a former Wisconsin assistant, took over as Northern Illinois head coach last December following Jerry Kill's departure for Minnesota.

Harnish also ran for a touchdown and he capped his day with a 4-yard toss to Martel Moore that put NIU up 49-6.

Army scored three straight TDs in the fourth quarter.

Doeren became the first head coach to win a Northern Illinois debut game since Jerry Pettibone's 1985 squad beat Western Michigan 17-0.

Jamal Womble, Martel Moore, Akeem Daniels, Nathan Palmer and Luke Eakes each caught touchdown passes for the Huskies, who set a school record for wins by going 11-3 last season.

"All credit goes to those wideouts, the running backs, they made some great catches and did well with open space too," Harnish said. "They were able to get yards after the catch. Those guys did all the work. I just had to put it in the spot."

Ellerson, opening his third season, guided the Black Knights to a 7-6 record in 2010 and their first bowl victory since 1985. Army beat SMU 16-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Army (0-0) vs. Northern Illinois (0-0) Sept. 3 7:00 ESPN3
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Here’s The Deal … It’s not exactly Oregon vs. LSU or Boise State vs. Georgia, but this should be among the most intriguing games of the opening weekend. Northern Illinois was tremendous last year, outside of a choke against Miami in the MAC title game, and now the goal is to keep the momentum going under new head coach Dave Doeren. This isn’t just a typical MAC team; it has the talent and the skill to compete and possibly beat most of the mediocre BCS conference teams, but first it has to show that it can hold on against an Army team that should be as good as any in the last few decades.

Army has rebuilt under head coach Rich Ellerson and got into a bowl last year, beating SMU in the Armed Forced Bowl. Now it’s time to take things to another level and be as good and as consistent as Navy has been over the last several years, and that starts with beating a good non-BCS team like NIU.

Why Army Might Win: The Northern Illinois defensive front seven needs time and seasoning. Doeren is a strong defensive coach, but he has a lot of work to do and it’s asking way too much to be air-tight against an Army running game that should be deadly precise. The tackle situation is a big iffy and will be a big question mark from the start, and if the Knights can get fullback Jared Hassin going in the middle right away, things should open up on the outside. The linebacking corps isn’t sound enough or proven enough to know what it’s doing against an attack that kills teams that have to guess. The Huskies will have one of the MAC’s best defenses as the season wears on, but it’s not going to be sharp out of the box, like last year when NIU struggled against Iowa State in the opener before growing into something special.

Why Northern Illinois Might Win: The NIU offensive line should dominate. The Army defensive front works in waves to keep everyone fresh, and it’s great when it comes to holding up against the power running teams, but it’s not going to get behind the line against the Huskies and it’s going to get beaten on for a full sixty minutes. Last year’s Army run defense stats are a bit misleading. Temple rolled for 256 yards and four scores, Air Force ripped off 277 yards, and the better teams were effective when pounding away. NIU isn’t going to get cute; it’ll use its veteran line to try to beat up the Knights. On the other side of the ball, the Huskies aren’t going to be all that strong on the front seven, but the secondary will be able to sell out with no fear whatsoever of an Army passing game.

What To Watch Out For: The two veteran quarterbacks should be terrific. Army junior Trent Steelman has been the main man for the last two years starting his last 25 games, and while he’s never going to be Peyton Manning throwing the ball, he has the option down cold. The team’s second-leading rusher, the 6-0, 204-pounder tore off 721 yards with 11 touchdowns, and while he completed 53% of his throws, he only threw seven touchdown passes with four interceptions and just 995 yards. A great decision maker, he’s the right leader for the attack, but he has to keep from getting blasted and has to try to avoid the big hit.

The NIU attack revolved around the devastating ground game and the 1,388-yard season from graduated star Chad Spann, but Chandler Harnish did a little of everything finishing second in rushing with 836 yards and seven scores and completing 65% of his throws for 2,530 yards and 21 touchdowns with five picks. At 6-2 and 221 pounds he has decent size and tremendous running ability, but more than anything else, he’s a smart, tough leader who’s coming off an all-star season and will be the key figure on what should be the MAC’s best team.

What Will Happen: There might not be a faster game all weekend. The two teams will run and run some more, and while Army will have its moments and will control the game for stretches, NIU will be more balanced and will be more effective on third downs. The two teams should combine for at least 500 rushing yards, and while Army will probably come out on the right side of the rushing yards, Harnish will dominate when he needs to and the Huskie line will be terrific.

CFN Prediction: Northern Illinois 34 ... Army 21
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Northern Illinois -10  O/U: 54.5
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