DeKALB – On a few occasions this season, Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill hasn't waited until his team is back in the locker room to talk to his players at halftime.
Saturday against Buffalo was one of those times.
The Huskies' coach gathered his team together near the NIU sideline just after the first half ended and spoke to the players about what happened during a flat first-half performance.
"I wasn't a yelling contest or anything," Kill said. "I just said 'Hey, we've done some things. We gave them some things. We need to go in at halftime and get ready to go. We've got a second half to play. Let's concentrate and focus on playing smarter football.' "
Again, the Huskies responded, pitched its second straight second-half shutout and stayed unbeaten in Mid-American Conference play with a convincing 45-14 victory against the Bulls in front of a much-improved crowd of 21,230 at Huskie Stadium.
With Buffalo (2-4, 1-1 MAC) having two weeks to prepare for Saturday's game, the Bulls threw various looks at the NIU (5-2, 3-0 MAC) offense that weren't on film from earlier this season. It left a flustered Huskies offense, already frustrated by three missed field goals from kicker Michael Cklamovski, searching for answers.
"I was definitely frustrated," NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish said. "Credit to them, they did a great job in the secondary and even on their blitz pressures, they did a lot of good things."
Harnish's numbers came down to earth this week after a stellar four weeks. The junior finished 13 of 26 for 160 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Ahead by only a touchdown at halftime, the Huskies adjusted by coming out almost exclusively in the spread offense, keeping the extra player or two that Buffalo had near the line of scrimmage back in pass coverage.
The result was a more efficient NIU offense that found room to breathe against Buffalo's pressure defense and allowed the Huskies' running game to get going.
Chad Spann and Harnish each scored a rushing touchdown and backup quarterback Jordan Lynch capped the game with a 90-yard rushing touchdown, the longest run in school history since LeShon Johnson's 92-yard carry on Oct. 2, 1993, against Southern Illinois.
"It was better for our o-linemen because then they knew, you could only put so many in the box and it was easier for Chandler to see what's going on," Kill said.
The Huskies are now off to their best start since 2004, when they began the season 7-2.
"I do believe now after watching Northern and the quality of players and schemes and coaching that this is going to be one of the best teams," Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said. "I can see them taking this thing all the way to Detroit (the site of the MAC Championship)."
Kill said his team would look at the film from the first half and find ways to improve so his team would look more like the second-half team that dominated the Bulls.
"We had a feeling it was going to be a little bit ugly," Kill said. "But we just wanted to get out of there with a win."