I wish I had more time this week because I really would like to go into some details about Saturday's Navy-Northern Illinois game. Not only should it be another high scoring affair, but it will be senior day a hopefully a chance to reward for some of the hard working seniors who've helped to turn this program into a consistent winner. Unfortunately I won't be in attendance on Saturday, and I haven't had much time this week to write on the many plots coming into the game. That all being said, I'm not going to leave you totally in the dark, and thanks to Breezy from Red and Black Attack, we've got your NIU preview. I shot Breezy some questions the other day, and he's been kind enough to talk a little about his team and his thoughts for the game. As usual, there will be ample postgame coverage on Sunday and Monday. Until then, here's some thoughts to mull over....
Q: When this game first came out on Navy's schedule, a lot of Midshipmen fans thought it would be a good "measuring stick" game against what has been one of the MAC's best teams over the last several years. Yet the Huskie's have been down this year, and at 2-8have fallen to the bottom of the conference. In as many or as little words as you like, can you "fill us in" so to speak on what's gone wrong for the Huskies?
A: There are a lot of places to go with this question. First of all,there have been more injuries this year than any year Joe Novak has been coaching. He's said repeatedly in interviews that he's seen nothing like what has happened this year. We've had 13+ season-ending injuries and our defensive line has been hit the most, with 6 guys out for the season. Secondly, we almost have a non-existent senior class this year. All 4 of our captains are juniors and there are only 4seniors on the 2-deep, including our backup FS and the Kicker. It's clear to see that this team is very inexperienced and lacks veteran leadership. One thing representative of this is turning the ball over, and we have kept doing this consistently, as we rank 117th in the nation in turnover margin with a -14. It also doesn't help that we have a new offensive coordinator in Roy Wittke from ASU and it didn't seem like everybody was on the right page until last week's win vs Kent State.
Q: You mentioned the other day on your blog that Northern Illinois has experienced a plethora of injuries at the running back position, with leading rusher rusher Justin Anderson listed as "questionable" with a bum knee. QB Dan Nicholson also had to leave the game early last week after suffering a concussion. Will both of these players play, and what impact, if any, will their loss have on the tam if they don't?
A: I fully expect both Justin Anderson & David Bryant to play in this game. They have been dealing with injuries like these for a while now. I am more worried about Justin Anderson because of his punishing running style. He is more likely to get banged up early and have the speed back Bryant relieve him just like what happened in the last game. If they don't play, then there's nothing left in the cupboard,because all we have left is guys that haven't received a carry this season. With Dan Nicholson, he has gotten rocked a few times this semester and he consistently comes back and plays decent. Honestly,he can't get any worse with his 9-14 TD-INT ratio, and it seems the WRs are finally getting in rhythm with him at QB. God forbid our backup QB Ryan Morris comes in and plays. All he will do is hand the ball off over and over again, as he is a former walk-on with considerably less talent. Novak says Nicholson has a 75% chance he's going to play Saturday.
Q: Navy has been notoriously bad on defense this year, especially against teams which run more "spread" oriented offenses. Can you tell us a little about the Northern Illinois offense, including who the playmakers are and what kind of looks the offense gives?
A: Yeah, we don't run the spread so you can be a little less worried.We pretty much run a one-back balanced attack. We use a run-first orientated mentality and that has always been the case with Joe Novak as head ball coach. There's a lot of pre-snap motion and it seems like we are trying to get our TEs involved a lot more involved in the offense. Our huge playmaker right now on offense is WR Matt Simon.He always is consistently good and comes through with huge plays. One other player to look for (other than RB Justin Anderson of course),would be WR Britt Davis. He has been inconsistent all season, but has tremendous athletic ability and can make the tough catch. Also, look for RB Justin Anderson to come out of the backfield a lot and make some catches. Also our offensive line looked like a freaking bulldozer last Saturday so I would watch out. Those guys are hungry.
Q: Gearing up for Navy's offense can be a touch task for a team which doesn't face it on a yearly basis. What is Head Coach Joe Novak getting his team prepared, and do you expect the Huskies to have any success against Navy's offense?
A: All week HC Joe Novak's been saying that nobody is going to stop Navy's offense, and the best that we can do is slow it down, by controlling the ball on offense and obviously scoring a lot on that end too. That's what he has been preaching. The defense has been working hard on their assignments for defending Navy's offense. I doubt we stop you guys at all really. Well, we do have really good linebackers, so I'm pretty confident that we can stop your offense a few times. And you don't throw the ball, so our "Huskie Prevent D"isn't going to consistently give up yardage and let you guys come back if we take the lead early.
Q: I'm not sure if you're a prediction guy, but how do you think this game will play out?
A: I believe that the new-found confidence after a win at home will travel to Annapolis and the Huskies will get this win in a shoot-out,41-38, barring any significant injuries on our offense.