Created: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

MAC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: League's top rusher pushing to return against NIU


Buffalo junior Branden Oliver is an explosive running back.

After a season in which he broke school records for rushing and all-purpose yards, Oliver leads the Mid-American Conference with an average of 142 rushing yards a game.

However, Oliver, who's nickname is "Bo," hasn't played the past two games because of a knee injury. The Bulls will play at Northern Illinois on Saturday.

Speaking on the MAC coaches teleconference Monday, Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn did sound optimistic about his star tailback.

"He's gotten a lot better. Our goal is to get him back on the field ASAP," Quinn said. "We felt Saturday we might have took a chance, but we just still felt he wasn't 100 percent and we just felt at that point we needed to make a decision to hold him back.

"We'll see what he does this week. Hopefully we can get him back."

The Bulls didn't seem to miss Oliver too much in Saturday's 38-31 loss to unbeaten Ohio. Instead of Oliver lining up in the backfield, true freshman Devin Campbell took his place and ran for 160 yards on 30 carries. With Buffalo backup running back Brandon Murie out as well with an ankle injury, Campbell shined.

Quinn said he plans on using both backs once Oliver returns.

"Once we get Bo back and be able to continue developing our package to get both of them some touches, both Bo and Devin. When [Oliver] comes back, it's going to be exciting," Quinn said.

NIU coach Dave Doeren said the Bulls will run a lot of similar plays to what the Huskies run, plays such as zone reads and quarterback draws. Buffalo quarterback Alex Zordich can run, as well. He picked up 110 yards in the Ohio loss.

What the Bulls will do with their running attack depends on Oliver's health.

"Obviously, whether or not they have Oliver in, their makeup makes a little bit of a difference," Doeren said. "Because there's more just direct tailback run game when he plays, which you can understand why, he's a great back."

KSU's Archer stars against Eagles:
Kent State had no problem scoring in a 41-14 win over Eastern Michigan on Friday, and much of it came from junior running back Dri Archer.

Archer had three touchdowns in the win, including a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the Golden Flashes improved to 4-1 and 3-0 in the MAC. Archer leads the MAC with 11 touchdowns.

Eagles coach Ron English was complimentary of Archer's return ability, and said he wouldn't kick to him if he had another chance.

"I don't think you should ever kick to him," English said. "I"m serious."
Lembo praises Huskies' depth:
Fourth-quarter comebacks have been the norm for NIU this season. Saturday's 35-23 victory at Ball State was NIU's third of the season.

Cardinals coach Pete Lembo gave a lot of credit to NIU's depth for the Huskies' fourth-quarter success. NIU rotates a number of players on the offensive and defensive lines.

"One of the things that impresses you about NIU is their depth," Lembo said. "They play a lot of people, and I really think that helps them finish games strong in the fourth quarter."

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?