DeKALB – Saturday in Muncie, Ind., Northern Illinois could very well be right in the middle of another offensive shootout.
The Huskies won’t have the only high-powered offense on the field at Scheumann Stadium.
Ball State comes into the contest ranked third in the Mid-American Conference in scoring offense (35.8 points a game), while the Cardinals are second in total offense (477.2 yards a game).
At the center of the Cardinals’ attack is junior quarterback Keith Wenning, a third-year starter who has thrown for 1,306 yards and 10 touchdowns this season while completing 64 percent of his passes.
He threw for a career-high 445 yards in last week’s 45-43 loss to Kent State, which is the second highest single-game total in school history.
Wenning isn’t going to run all over defenses like NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, but he’ll carry the ball enough to keep teams honest.
Huskies head coach Dave Doeren said Wenning is the best quarterback his team has faced so far this season, if you look at his body of work through the first five weeks of the year.
“He gets the ball out really quick. ... He will run a little bit, but that’s not his deal. He averages almost 20 yards rushing a game in their zone read game,” Doeren said. “So he runs adequately enough to make you look bad. But he’s not a scrambler that can take off and go. He’s going to try to scramble and throw, if anything probably.”
And Wenning isn’t without playmakers. Sophomore receiver Willie Snead averages over 100 yards receiving per game. Two running backs, sophomores Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks, have carried the ball 50 or more times while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Ball State’s offensive line has also given up just three this season.
One key, as always, is not letting Ball State’s running game to get going.
“I think if you can make it a one-dimensional football game, where they have to throw to win, you feel better about it than if they can run and play-action you, [bootleg] you and drop back,” Doeren said. “I think any time you play anybody, if you can make them one-dimensional you’ve got a better chance.”
NIU’s experienced defense will be tested once again, and junior cornerback Jhony Faustin said the group has continued to improve as the season has gone along.
“I think we’ve gotten better each week on defense,” Faustin said. “Each and every individual player has gotten better on the things [they] focus on. So, we’ve gotten better as a defense overall.”