Created:Sunday, September 15, 2013 11:33 p.m.CDT
Updated:Sunday, September 15, 2013 11:34 p.m.CDT
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Mixed bag for NIU’s defense

By STEVE NITZ snitz@shawmedia.com
Jamaal Bass (left), Jason Meehan (right) and other members of the Northern Illinois defense tackle Idaho running back James Baker on Saturday during the Huskies' 45-35 victory in Moscow, Idaho. (Scott Walstrom – NIU Media Relations photo)

MOSCOW, Idaho – There are a lot of things Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey probably didn’t like when he first looked at his defense on film.

In NIU’s 45-35 win at Idaho Saturday afternoon, the Huskies gave up a lot of points to a team which came in averaging less than two touchdowns a game.

NIU had trouble against Idaho’s zone read in the first half, with the Vandals seemingly running at will. Penalties certainly didn’t help out. The Huskies had two key ones on the Vandals’ first touchdown drive of the game.

But it wasn’t all bad news for NIU’s defense. The Huskies set a school record with 11 sacks – two each from Mario Jones, Joe Windsor, Perez Ford and Rasheen Lemon. In the second half, the Huskies got to Idaho quarterback Chad Chalich consistently while rushing four guys.

“We’ve got good pass rushers. That’s one thing we can do, we’re fast,” Carey said. “If we get them in situations where they’re throwing it, we feel good about our chances against anybody.”

The defense came up with a big turnover in the first half, when Windsor forced a fumble that was recovered by Ken Bishop. The Huskies already were down seven points at the time, and the turnover led to a Jordan Lynch touchdown run. The Huskies forced three fumbles on the afternoon, winning the turnover battle, 3-2.

Once again, NIU toughened up against the run in the second half, allowing just 35 yards on the ground after halftime.

“Really good by Jay Niemann and the defensive coaches, Brett [Diersen] and Kevin [Kane] and [Kelvin Sigler] to adjust,” Carey said. “It took us a minute because you’ve got to see it. They adjusted and we got it handled.”

NIU wasn’t expecting as much zone read as the Vandals ran. On one play, Vandals backup quarterback Josh McCain (who’s in the same role NIU used Jordan Lynch in two years ago) went untouched for a 34-yard TD run on a zone read.

Idaho also hurried up on offense, something the Vandals didn’t do in their first two games.

“They did not show that on film at all,” Ford said.

“The first half we just came at slow. The speed kind of surprised us,” Bass said. “The tempo. The second half, we just slowed the game down. It allowed us to play fast.”

The last time NIU was at the Kibbie Dome in 2007, Larry English set an individual school record with five sacks. Saturday, the Huskies’ D-line got its own record.

“That’s a big accomplishment for those guys,” Bass said. “That just shows you what we can do in the future.”

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