2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 10 - NIU at Toledo
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Nov. 1 Northern Illinois 63 … at Toledo 60
CFN Analysis: Chandler Harnish has had a special career, but this was his shining moment, completing 17-of-26 passes for 265 yards and six touchdowns, and running 16 times for 133 yards. More than that, he was brilliant leading the offense back late in the fourth quarter with two key drives including the game-winner, culminating in a four-yard scoring pass in the final few seconds. As good as he was, TommyLee Lewis was every bit the star with two kickoff returns for a score. The defense wasn’t even close to stopping Toledo, but that was this kind of a game and Harnish turned out to be a bit better. Winners of four straight, the West is there for the taking with relative layups against Bowling Green, Ball State, and Eastern Michigan to go.
The loss will overshadow a special day from Eric Page, who caught nine passes for 150 yards and five scores and returned three kicks for 101 yards. The Rocket offense was dominant, but the special teams breakdowns in the first quarter, and a disastrous day trying to slow down Chandler Harnish and the NIU passing game, were enough to offset Austin Dantin’s shining moment. Dantin completed 20-of-33 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns, and ran 11 times for 60 yards and a score, while Adonis Thomas ran 25 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns. The Rockets need help now to win the West after losing the showdown, needing to win out and hoping for an NIU loss. If the offense keeps playing like this, getting by WMU, CMU, and Ball State won’t be a problem.
(AP) TOLEDO, Ohio -- Chandler Harnish threw a 4-yard strike to Perez Ashford with 19 seconds left for his sixth touchdown pass of the game, lifting Northern Illinois to a wild 63-60 victory over Toledo on Tuesday night.
The Huskies and Rockets combined for 1,121 yards of offense and a Mid-American Conference-record 17 touchdowns in the second-highest scoring game in league history.
Tommylee Lewis returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the first quarter for the Huskies (6-3, 4-1), who have won four straight and five of six. Harnish completed 17 of 26 passes for 265 yards, and also had 16 carries for 133 yards.
Austin Dantin threw five touchdown passes to Eric Page as the Rockets (5-4, 4-1) finished with 33 first downs and 589 yards of offense. Dantin went 20-for-33 for 322 yards, and Page had nine grabs for 150 yards.
Harnish connected with Nathan Palmer four times for 120 yards and three touchdowns, including a 71-yard play that gave Northern Illinois a 28-14 lead with 9:59 left in the second quarter.
Toledo then scored the next 17 points, capped by Dantin's 5-yard run that made it 31-28 with 11:46 to go in the third.
Adonis Thomas finished with 160 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Rockets, who had won four straight since a 33-30 overtime loss at Syracuse on Sept. 24.
Thomas' 3-yard plunge gave Toledo a 60-56 lead with 4:16 remaining in the game.
Lewis returned the opening kickoff 100 yards to put the Huskies in front. The Rockets responded with Page's 12-yard TD reception, but Lewis went 95 yards on the ensuing kickoff to make it 14-7.
There was only one turnover in the game, a fumble by Northern Illinois.
Northern Illinois (5-3) at Toledo (5-3) November 1, 7PM, ESPN
Here’s The Deal … The Toledo Rockets host the Northern Illinois Huskies in a crucial MAC West showdown. The teams have split the last four meetings, with NIU winning last season in DeKalb 65-30.
By virtue of their victory over the Rockets, Northern Illinois advanced to the MAC title game last year. Dave Doeren takes over the reins this season after Jerry Kill left to become head coach at Minnesota. Under Doeren’s leadership the Huskies’ recent tradition of success has continued. NIU has a 5-3 record that includes a narrow 45-42 loss against Kansas of the Big 12. In MAC play, the Huskies picked up where they left off last season, rolling to a 3-1 record that includes an impressive 52-21 win over Western Michigan. Last week, the Huskies displayed the poise of a champion, holding off a fierce fourth quarter rally by Buffalo to prevail 31-30.
Toledo has put the disappointment from last year’s loss well behind them. While the Rockets got off to a 1-3 start, they had their opportunities to beat both Ohio State and Syracuse - they simply came up short. However, MAC play has been a different story. Toledo has won its first four MAC games, including road victories over East leader Temple and archrival Bowling Green. The Rockets have also played well at home, destroying reigning MAC Champion Miami 49-28 in the Glass Bowl last weekend.
Just like last year’s contest, this game will crown the MAC West Division champion. A Northern Illinois win would give the Huskies the tiebreaker over the Rockets, and put them in control of their own destiny. On the other hand, a Toledo victory would give the Rockets a de facto two game lead over the rest of the division, since they own the tiebreaker over Eastern Michigan.
Why Northern Illinois Might Win: The NIU offense will light up the scoreboard again this week. The Huskies have the top offense in the MAC, averaging 463 yards per game. Their success begins and ends with the running game. Aside from Wisconsin, no one has stopped the Northern Illinois ground game this year. The Huskies have rushed for 244 yards per game, ranking 11th nationally in rushing offense. In MAC play, they have done even better, cranking out 275 yards on the ground per game. However, teams cannot simply load the box to stop the NIU running game. If they do, the Husky offense can beat them through the air. While they do not have any eye popping passing stats, the Huskies can throw the ball when they need to, and have thrown for over 300 yards twice this season.
Northern Illinois also has a decided advantage in the special teams’ play, which has been the Achilles heel for the Toledo all year long. The Rockets have given up big plays in the kicking game throughout the season, including a punt return for a TD against Ohio State that turned out to be the deciding TD.
Why Toledo Might Win: Because their offensive scheme has so many weapons – including a dual QB system where each QB has his own unique skill set - preparing for the Rockets is a very difficult task. Toledo also has one of the best offenses in the MAC, averaging 438 yards per game against a brutal schedule that included Boise State, Ohio State, and Syracuse. The aggressive non-conference schedule has paid dividends as the Rocket offense has found another gear in conference play. Against conference opponents, Toledo averages 234 yards rushing per game, and an outstanding 5.3 yards per carry. Toledo QB’s have also shined in MAC play, throwing for 217 yards per contest, and completing an amazing 75% of their passes. More impressively, the Rockets put up these numbers against Temple, Miami, and Eastern Michigan, who rank among the Top 5 defenses in the conference.
In addition to their offensive prowess, Toledo has another advantage – turnovers. In a close game, the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. Rocket Head Coach Tim Beckman preaches holding on to the football, and it shows. The Rockets rank fourth nationally in turnover margin forcing +1.63 turnovers per game.
What To Watch Out For: Northern Illinois’ offensive success starts with QB Chandler Harnish. Harnish’s versatility causes nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators. Harnish is a very efficient passer. For the season, he has completed 62.8% of his passes with 12 TD’s against only 4 INT’s. Harnish also poses a threat as a runner, leading the Huskies’ rushing attack with 732 yards. Harnish also plays well in big games. Last year, with the MAC title on the line, he had one of the best performances of his career, torching the Rockets for 169 yards through the air, and an additional 149 yards rushing. NIU will need a similar performance from him this season to beat Toledo in the Glass Bowl.
While Toledo has a wealth of talent at the skill positions, they will turn to All-American candidate Eric Page when they need a big play. Page has led the Rockets in receiving each of the past two seasons, and appears headed towards an third straight 1100-yard season. In addition to his skills as a receiver, Page doubles as a punt returner, ranking 12th nationally with 12.9 yards per return. He even poses a threat as a passer, hitting a 33-yard TD strike against Temple. The Rocket offense will need another big day from Page if they expect to keep up with a team as explosive as Northern Illinois.
What Will Happen: In a matchup that features two of the top offensive teams in the MAC, this game promises to be a shootout. The offenses will continue to light up the scoreboard as they have all season. With both offenses clicking on all cylinders, the team that makes the most plays on defense will win the game. Since Toledo has a better defense, and a much better turnover margin, the Rockets will win a shootout, and take another step towards its first trip to the MAC Championship game since 2004.
CFN Prediction: Toledo 41 … Northern Illinois 30
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