Created:Saturday, October 19, 2013 7:15 p.m.CST
Updated:Saturday, October 19, 2013 7:17 p.m.CST
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NOTES: Takeaways continue to come for NIU defense

By STEVE NITZ – snitz@shawmedia.com
(Scott Walstrom - NIU Media Services)

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Central Michigan looked as if it was going to take a lead on Northern Illinois.

The Chippewas had the ball at the NIU 33-yard line with roughly five minutes left in the first half, and it appeared that they had converted a fourth-down play after Cooper Rush completed a pass to Jerry Harris.

However, NIU safety Dechane Durante rocked Harris after his 13-yard catch, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Jhony Faustin.

At the time, the score was tied at 14. The Huskies would go on to outscore the Chippewas 24-3 the rest of the contest.

"As a defense we just feed of takeaways," Durante said. "[Harris] coughed the ball up. Got a takeaway for the defense. As you could see, we had a good second half. We feed off takeaways, and it took off from there."

The play was a blown scoring chance for the Chippewas.

“Yes, that was a missed opportunity. Against a good team you can’t have missed opportunities," CMU head coach Dan Enos said. "We missed one right there with that. It was a great throw and he caught it. You have to give their safety credit; he made a great hit. It’s part of the game.”

True freshman Smith steps in: Draco Smith played tailback at Chicago's Mt. Carmel High School, but was recruited to NIU as a defensive back, and has spent most of the season practicing there.

However, recently Carey decided to put the true freshman at running back in practice. With backup tailback Keith Harris Jr. out for the season, NIU put Smith into action Saturday, instead of burning the redshirt of Jordan Huff or Joel Bouagnon.

Smith lined up both in the backfield and out wide, and finished with one carry for five yards.

"With how we play, it's a physical brand of football so you've got to have running backs," Carey said. "Unfortunately, Keith, his season ended. We messed around with [Smith at tailback] last week and we decided to pull the trigger. Draco was all in on it so I'm really happy for him."

Carey sees improvements in kicking game: Mathew Sims didn't kick for the second straight week.

Backup kicker Tyler Wedel, who had two kicks blocked last week, made his only field-goal opportunity, a 34-yarder, and was 6 of 6 on extra points. Wedel, who always handles kickoffs, had two go out of bounds, but Carey said the wind played a factor in those.

Carey thought the kicking game went well.

"Overall I was really happy with how Tyler, again, handled every facet of our kicking game," Carey said. "I was really proud of him today."

Does NIU coach Rod Carey get enough credit for NIU's season?
Yes
No