Taking notes during the Purdue game, I instinctively wrote "Toughness of NIU, runnin' right at Purdue." It's a weird world when a medium sized MAC team can run roughshod over a supposedly improved Purdue defense...Especially after all those TV pieces about Mike Neal's 510 bench press and how last year's defensive struggles were just a precursor to this year's improvement.
The title derives from my experience as a wide receiver during the glory days of 10th grade JV football. Never having played organized ball before this, I didn't quite grasp the immense violence that football is. Needless to say, I was picked on from the start of two-a-days. Who doesn't want to decleat a 140 lb pretty boy wide receiver? My best friend, the starting strong safety, still talks about the time he planted me in the ground during an Oklahoma drill. After much debate, the head coach decided my nickname would be "Marshmallow," because he felt I was soft. Thanks coach.
Two run plays sealed the fate of Purdue. The quarterback run off tackle and the zone read handoff to Me'Co Brown. Sophomore Chandler Harnisch, channeling his inner Tim Tebow, followed his blockers mostly to the right side of the Purdue defense and picked up five yards a pop Along with this same concept came Brown, the angry little scatback who refused to be tackled by the first tackler. Harnisch would read the defense and then stretch the play a little, allowing Brown to squirt through the freshly formed hole.
Purdue gave up 280 yards on the ground, but it was the concept that mattered. After NIU realized they were tougher and more talented than Purdue in the box, the Harnisch dives and Brown reads became commonplace. Good coaching by NIU, sure, but also a sad lesson to learn about the Boilermaker D.
Another referendum on the NIU edge, from the Yahoo! play-by-play breakdown.
|1st-6, Purd6||15:00||C. Spann rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain|
|2nd-3, Purd3||14:21||C. Spann rushed up the middle for 2 yard gain|
|3rd-1, Purd1||13:39||C. Spann rushed up the middle for 1 yard touchdown. M. Salerno made PAT|
What did those hip 1990's t-shirts read? "No Fear". And another one...
|1st-10, Purd36||5:35||M. Brown rushed to the left for 3 yard gain|
|2nd-7, Purd33||5:07||C. Spann rushed to the right for 12 yard gain|
|1st-10, Purd21||4:38||C. Spann rushed to the right for no gain|
|2nd-10, Purd21||4:03||C. Harnish rushed up the middle for 2 yard gain|
|3rd-8, Purd19||3:22||C. Spann rushed up the middle for 8 yard gain|
|1st-10, Purd11||2:47||C. Spann rushed up the middle for 11 yard touchdown. M. Salerno made PAT|
A little preseason prediction magic from TRE and Mid Major Madness:
TRE: Upset special. These are two evenly matched teams, with one team returning a couple more play makers.
NIU 31, Purdue 24.
MMM: The Huskies will be much more prepared than a Boilermaker team who will be expecting to gorge on another delicious cupcake. The key for NIU is to capitalize on all scoring opportunities. Last years young NIU team struggled mightily within the red zone, but Kill has worked closely with Chandler Harnish during the off-season and West Lafayette will be the a good barometer of whether that work has paid off . Look to see Harnish use his legs to tear up a slower Purdue defense.
If they can convert at least 75% of their Red Zone attempts, the Huskies will walk away with the win.
NIU 27 Purdue 21