DeKALB – Northern Illinois is giving up an average of 28.2 points and 461.5 yards a game.
The Huskies’ scoring total is 77th in the nation, and the yardage allowed ranks 108th.
However, NIU football coach Rod Carey has seen progress, which also has showed up in the numbers.
After giving up 39 points in a win over Eastern Illinois, the amount of points scored against the Huskies’ defense has dropped each game. NIU gave up 24 against Purdue and Kent State (one touchdown came on a Dri Archer kickoff return), then the Huskies allowed 20 points to Akron on Oct. 12 and 17 against Central Michigan last week.
The yardage total for NIU’s opponents also has dropped every week since EIU.
In Mount Pleasant, Mich. last week, the Huskies gave up a season-low 346 yards.
Carey said the defense is starting to come into its own.
“There are still some things in the pass defense that we need to clean up as far as where our eyes are from our defensive backs, double-move situations, holes in our zone, communication sometimes,” Carey said during Tuesday’s news conference at the Yordon Center. “So some of those things need to get cleaned up, but it’s gotten better and all the things I just said have improved.
“I think our technique up front has improved to a point where we’re playing with better leverage and we’re playing more square to the football than we did at the start of the year, but it’s not perfect yet. We need to keep improving those detailed small things [going] forward.”
Carey mentioned senior defensive tackle Ken Bishop (33 tackles, three tackles for loss) as someone on the defense who has taken a big step forward. He said there’s nobody playing better than Jamaal Bass (50 tackles) when it comes to NIU’s linebackers.
Senior safety Jimmie Ward, who’s tied for the national lead with five interceptions, could be a candidate for Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
In six out of its seven games this season, NIU has given up fewer points in the second half. The Huskies give up an average of only 8.4 points after halftime. Last week, NIU made the right adjustments once again, and Central Michigan had only three second-half points.
“We saw that they were trying to play-action pass and we would try to come around the ball,” safety Dechane Durante said. “They didn’t run the ball well that game, so we just wanted to make the big plays down the field. If we stop the big plays, we’ll keep them out of the end zone. That is what we did in the second half.”