2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 2 - NIU at Kansas
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at Kansas 45 … Northern Illinois 42
CFN Analysis: This was a much, much stronger win than it might appear; Northern Illinois might be the best team in the MAC by far. James Sims came up with a tremendous performance, rushing for 110 yards and two scores, while Jordan Webb was fantastic at keeping the chains moving and controlling the clock and the ball hitting third down pass after third down pass. The defense struggled, but again, NIU is fantastic and it's going to put up big numbers against just about everyone. The KU linebacker did a tremendous job against the dangerous Huskie running game, keeping backs Jasmin Hopkins to just 47 yards and Jamal Womble to 11. There are a whole slew of problems, but 2-0 isn't bad going into the Georgia Tech game. The O has to be ready to keep getting into shootouts.
Northern Illinois got yet another brilliant game out of Chandler Harnish, but not enough from anyone else. Harnish completed 27-of-33 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for 89 yards and three scores, but his defense didn't provide any help whatsoever. There weren't nearly enough stops against the pedestrian KU running game, and there weren't nearly enough third down stops allowing the Jayhawks to hold on to the ball for close to 37 minutes. NIU has a puncher's chance of beating Wisconsin next week, but the run defense has to come up with a new wrinkle in a hurry and the running backs have to help out Harnish.
(AP) LAWRENCE, KAN. -- Jordan Webb hit B.J. Beshears with a 6-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 9 seconds to go and Kansas escaped with a wild, back-and-forth 45-42 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday night.
After Jasmin Hopkins' 1-yard run put the Huskies on top 42-38 with 5:03 left in the seesaw slugfest, Beshears broke a 51-yard kickoff return to the 47. Then, facing a fourth-and-two from the 7 at the 1:19 mark, James Sims plowed to the 5 for a first-and-goal.
Two running plays lost yardage, setting up the last-second drama that resulted in Kansas' first two-game winning streak under second-year head coach Turner Gill. The touchdown on the goal line was so close, it was reviewed as the crestfallen Huskies, who won 11 games last season and are bidding to become the next mid-major upstart, looked on hopefully.
Everyone expected an offensive shootout from two teams that combined for more than 950 total yards in winning their openers the week before, and everyone was right. It was tied 35-35 tie at the end of the third quarter. Kansas (2-0) totaled 534 yards and Northern Illinois had 462.
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois' senior quarterback closing in on a raft of team records, was 27 for 33 for 315 6yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 89 yards and three TDs.
The Jayhawks also had touchdown runs of 72 yards by Tony Pierson and 31 by James Sims called back by holding penalties. Sims wound up with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Jordan Webb was 21 for 30 for 281 yards and three touchdowns.
After Harnish hit Da'Ron Brown with a 6-yard TD pass to tie it 35-all near the end of the third quarter, the Jayhawks swept right back down the field but were stopped on third-and-goal from the 5 and Alex Mueller kicked a 27-yard field goal for a 38-35 lead.
The first half ended with a wild flourish and Kansas locked in a 21-21 tie. With less than two minutes to play and Northern Illinois facing a fourth-and-six from the 30, Harnish lifted a perfectly thrown pass to Martel Moore, who appeared to come down with the ball just one yard short of the goal line.
The Huskies hurriedly lined up to run a play and seize a 28-14 lead. But a review resulted in a reversal, so the Jayhawks took over on their 30 at the 1:46 mark.
On third-and-eight, Webb hit Sims out of the backfield, he got a couple of good blocks and went 39 yards to the 29. A moment later, Webb was sacked, putting Kansas beyond field-goal range. But with 17 seconds left, on third-and-17, the Huskies blew coverage and left Kale Pick completely alone down field. He hauled in Webb's 36-yard touchdown pass, making it 21-21.
Each team scored two touchdowns in a third quarter that was almost devoid of defense. Harnish tallied on a 26-yard run and connected with Brown on a 10-yard TD pass. Kansas got two TD runs from Sims of 8 and 1 yard. Webb started sharp, hitting Beshears with a TD pass on third-and-goal from the 15. Harnish found Brown for 18 yards on fourth-and-three from the 28 on the Huskies' next possession and Harnish ran it in from the 7.
After Sims' TD run was wiped out by a penalty, Northern Illinois took over on its own 32 and Harnish was 3 for 3 for 53 yards in a five-play, 68-yard drive he capped with a 12-yard scoring run.
Northern Illinois tackle Ron Newcomb fell on a Kansas fumble after Webb and Sims bobbled a handoff and Harnish needed nine plays to move 53 yards for a 21-7 lead. On third-and-goal from the 8, the senior quarterback fired into the end zone for Martel Moore and a 21-7 lead.
JaCory Shepherd's 20-yard reception on third-and-10 a few minutes later kept Kansas' drive alive and Darrian Miller, one of several fleet freshmen who have enlivened what used to be a ponderous offense, made it 21-14 with an 18-yard dash around right end.
Northern Illinois (1-0) at Kansas (1-0) Sept. 10, 7:00, FCS
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Here's The Deal … Unlike last year, Kansas survived its Week One layup game, blowing away McNeese State 42-24, and while that might be nice, now comes the real work without a break on the schedule the rest of the way.
Sure, playing a MAC team at home is supposed to be easy, but Northern Illinois could be the league's best squad by far, and after this, KU has two even games left – Kansas State and at Iowa State – unless you believe Baylor's win over TCU was a mirage. It'll take something special to get to six wins and a bowl game, and it can't happen without beating the Huskies at home.
NIU picked up where it left off in the Jerry Kill era, with new head coach Dan Doeren coming out roaring with a huge day from the ground attack in a stunning 49-26 win over an Army team that should be good enough to end up in a bowl game. The team is focused and on a mission after gagging away the MAC Championship game, and with a veteran offense and enough athletes on defense to get by, it'll be stunning if it doesn't come out of Lawrence with a win.
Next week, the Huskies play Wisconsin in Soldier Field, and then comes the MAC schedule. Considering the Badgers have trouble with experienced spread quarterbacks, an upset wouldn't be totally out of left field. Also considering that no one on the MAC slate, with the possible exception of Toledo on the road and Western Michigan at home, should come without two touchdowns of the Huskies, this Kansas game could set the tone for a really, really big season.
Both teams have athletic, talented quarterbacks, and both teams like to get things going on the ground. NIU is used to playing BCS conference teams, and playing them well, and won't be fazed by the Kansas atmosphere, while the young Jayhawks have to mature in a big hurry while looking for its first win over a MAC team since throttling Toledo and Central Michigan by a combined score of 97 to 20 in early September 2007 games.
Why Northern Illinois Might Win: Kansas simply might not have the horses to keep up the pace.
Beating up poor McNeese State is one thing, and the running game worked extremely well, but the offense still has to prove it can be balanced and effective against a decent defense. NIU doesn't have a powerhouse of a D, but it won't have to worry about a Jayhawk passing game that was ultra-efficient last week, but threw the ball just ten times for 146 yards and three touchdowns. The Huskies will tee off on the run, and while the experience might not be there and there are question marks across the board, they can move. They had a nice dress rehearsal for good running games against Army last week, and while the Knights rolled for 303 yards and three touchdowns, there was no prayer of mounting a comeback after getting down 49-6 after three quarters. If NIU gets up early, Kansas doesn't have the ability – forgetting the Colorado game of last year for a moment, of mounting a big charge.
Why Kansas Might Win: Army did run for 303 yards.
It was too much, too late, but the Army ground game was able to move the ball a bit and generated a push with the attack that confused the NIU linebackers. The Huskie defensive front is great, but the linebackers were supposed to be a sticking point coming into the season, and it was against Army.
On the other side of the ball, the strength of the Jayhawks could be at linebacker. Stephen Johnson was tremendous against McNeese State with 15 tackles, Toben Opurum came up with 11 tackles with a sack, and the star prospect that everyone was waiting to see, Darius Willis, made seven tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. They should be good enough to keep the long NIU runs in check, and that's what the Huskies lived on with a few huge home runs hit against Army. KU is far more athletic than the Army defensive front, and the secondary is far, far faster.
What To Watch Out For: Chandler Harnish is coming off a scary-good game, and now the NIU starting quarterback is looking to make a big national name for himself with great performances over the next two weeks. While he's known as a top dual-threat playmaker, running for 80 yards and a score against Army, he was outstanding through the air completing 12-of-19 passes for 195 yards and five scores, with an interception. If he's slowed down, NIU has another weapon in Jasmin Hopkins, a speedster who took over from Chad Spann averaging 9.9 yards per carry running for 138 yards against Army.
Kansas got a big game out of running back James Sims, a tough, quick 6-0, 206-pound sophomore who led the team with 742 yards and nine touchdowns, while catching 19 passes for 134 yards and a score. Despite the KU rushing woes, and even though the production was inconsistent, Sims had his moments with three 100-yard days including 101 yards and a score against Georgia Tech and highlighted by a 123-yard, four-score performance against Colorado. It just so happened that KU's three wins on the season all came when Sims ran for 100 yards, and last week he ran for 104 yards and a touchdown.
What Will Happen: Kansas proved last year against Georgia Tech that it could win a game against a top running team, but it's not going to be able to slow down Harnish and the mixture of offensive production about to come. The Huskie offensive line will control the game, and while the KU backfield combination of James Sims and Jordan Webb will be effective, the defense won't do its part.
CFN Prediction: Northern Illinois 31 … Kansas 23
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Northern Illinois -6.5 O/U: 60
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