DeKALB – Jordan White was at a loss.
The Western Michigan wide receiver has wreaked havoc on defenses all season, leading the nation with 824 yards after racking up 156 against Bowling Green last week.
But on Saturday, Northern Illinois held the Broncos’ most dangerous player to 98 yards, his lowest output of the season aside from a 67-yard day in a blowout win against Nicholls State. More importantly, the Huskies kept White from making a game-changing play, with his longest reception being 20 yards.
“We just didn’t execute the way we should,” White said after NIU's 51-22 win. “We had openings all over, we just didn’t take advantage of them.”
On Saturday, the Daily Chronicle spent the game tracking how the Huskies defendd White and how the Broncos used him. White caught 12 of the 22 passes thrown to him.
"We played some zone where we were under and over him," NIU coach Dave Doeren said. "We double teamed him with some man stuff, and we mixed up the looks to his side. When we were 1-on-1, the safety knew that side that he was on the field. The [defensive back] wasn't alone, so he could help. We mixed it and then the pass rush a couple of times took care of him."
Quarter-by-quarter, here is what White did and how the Huskies reacted.
Throughout the first half, the Huskies primarily played man-to-man defense. White frequently broke open.
In the first quarter, White played primarily in the slot on the left side. On the second play of the game, he caught a screen pass and ran 9 yards. Earlier this week, NIU safety Tommy Davis said tackling White was "absolutely critical" because, running mostly short and intermediate routes, he had a high percentage of catching passes.
That was his biggest gain on a screen pass all game and his only target on the opening drive.
On the Broncos’ next drive, Carder threw to White three times on crossing routes. White had all three passes in his hands but caught only one of them for 20 yards. He dropped the other two.
White could only blame himself for the drops.
“I should have caught both of them. That’s my fault,” he said.
First quarter totals: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 35 yards
The majority of White’s routes in the second quarter were out routes toward the sideline, and most of those were successful.
On the second drive of the quarter, Carder threw to White five times on out routes and four were complete. White accounted for 34 yards on the drive with Jimmie Ward defending him man-to-man. The drive ended when Carder completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Chleb Ravenell.
Carder’s final first-half pass to White was on a crossing route. White was swarmed with defenders and the pass fell incomplete.
Second quarter totals: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 34 yards
Chandler Harnish and the Huskie offense took over in the third quarter, and the Huskie defense was able to stop White.
The Huskies switched primarily to a Cover-2 defense, where the cornerback covers the outside, the safety covers deep routes, and the linebacker covers the middle of the field. White’s out routes that were so effective in the second quarter were non-existent in the third.
“If he was in the slot, he did a lot of out routes, he was killing us at the beginning of the game. Going to Cover-2, [we were] able to limit that,” cornerback Rashaan Melvin said.
The first two times Carder targeted White were on short crossing routes. The first pass was knocked down by cornerback Sean Evans, and the second was complete for four yards.
White was targeted three more times in the quarter. The first was on a route straight up the sideline, which he tipped for an interception. The next was another crossing route, knocked down again by Evans. The final was an out route, which Melvin was able to knock down.
Third quarter totals: 5 targets, 1 reception, 4 yards
On the first drive of the fourth quarter, White set up for screen passes almost every play. He caught one for a yard.
His final two receptions of the game came when the game was already out of hand, for 11 and 13 yards.
Fourth quarter totals: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 25 yards
Out routes: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 34 yards
Screens: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 16 yards
Crossing routes: 8 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards
Other routes: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards