Northern Illinois ran a lot of situational stuff on offense during a very windy Saturday scrimmage at Huskie Stadium. The scrimmage belonged to the defense, which didn't allow an offensive touchdown until the 13th drive, or about an hour into the scrimmage.
But probably the most important piece of information out of Saturday's scrimmage was the number of plays NIU ran out of the pistol offense. For those that don't know, the pistol is basically a hybrid of the shotgun and a single-back offense. The quarterback is in shotgun, but closer to the offensive line than normal.
The pistol has a reputation as a high-scoring, downhill and explosive offense. Nevada famously uses it and led the nation in rushing offense in 2008. For you MAC fans, Ohio runs a lot of its offense out of the pistol. Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Kansas and Missouri all incorporate some aspects of the pistol. Indiana runs it almost exclusively. NIU's offensive coaches met with Indiana's coaches in the offseason to discuss the pistol.
"We really liked a lot of things," NIU offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. "We started watching Nevada a little bit. One of the things is, when you're an under center team, our quarterbacks were getting a lot of their down the field throws out of the gun. Then when we got under center we were usually limited in dropbacks. But what the pistol has allowed us to do is be more consistent."
Now, NIU isn't going to all of a sudden start running the pistol exclusively, but the coaches are taking a good look at it this spring as a way to fold it into the offensive gameplan.
"It doesn't change what we've been doing," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "It just puts the quarterback back there and gives a little bit different look as we go along. I think we've all worked hard to visit different places and share different ideas and in the spring, this is when you do that."
Kill said there are some things he likes about the pistol offense.
"Any time you can move the quarterback and you shift and you move people and put tailbacks in different positions, it messes with people's keys," he said.
Count running back Ricky Crider as a fan of the pistol. Crider again was the leading rusher on Saturday, carrying the ball 10 times for 95 yards.
"You can see things a lot better when you get the ball," Crider said. "It makes the reads a lot easier."
Running back Cameron Bell also said he enjoys the pistol. But, in talking with Bell you get the feeling he's happy to be running any offense after having to sit out last year as a transfer from Iowa State. Bell ran for two touchdowns Saturday and looked like he could be a major force in short-yardage situations.
"I've been out of football for about a year-and-a-half now," Bell said. "And I haven't played running back in about two-and-a-half years. It's like you're a baby and you're growing up to be a young man again. It's just progressing every day."
Before we get to the unofficial statistics, here are a few other observations from Saturday...
• Quarterback Chandler Harnish got to work two series. He sprinted, did rollouts and looked comfortable in the pistol.
• DeMarcus Grady wasn't as impressive as he was last Saturday, but had to deal with a couple of drops on what would have been big gains. He also had a 20-yard pass to Nate Palmer called back because of a holding penalty.
• Count this as a double whammy for Perez Ashford. After just missing on a catch, cornerback Chris Smith de-cleated him in what was easily the hit of the day.
• I was tempted to give linebacker Devon Butler a two-point takedown for his scoop and slam of wide receiver Willie Clark. Clark got up just fine and did pretty well on Saturday.
• Brian Lawson was very impressive today as you'll see in the statistics. NIU appears as loaded as advertised on the defensive line.
• The referees weren't too busy but did have to make a couple of obvious holding calls on the offense.
• Wide receiver Landon Cox was held out of the scrimmage with a hip pointer but should be fine. He ran and worked out with some of the players who are not fully participating in spring practice like Chad Spann and D.J. Pirkle.
With that, here are the unofficial statistics from Saturday's scrimmage:
Passing: A.J. Hill: 9-14, 116 yards, 1 INT, 1 fumble lost DeMarcus Grady: 11-23, 93 yards, 1 fumble Jordan Lynch: 6-12, 36 yards, 1 INT Chandler Harnish: 2-5, 18 yards Tommy Coughlin: 1-1, 6 yards
Rushing: Ricky Crider: 10-95 Cameron Bell: 17-52, 2 TDs Jasmin Hopkins: 11-26 Antione Kirkland: 7-12, 1 fumble Barrington Scott: 5-11, 1 fumble lost Jordan Lynch: 3-(minus) 3 A.J. Hill: 2-(minus) 5 DeMarcus Grady: 3-(minus) 8 Chandler Harnish 1-(minus) 8
Receiving: Nate Palmer: 5-64 Martel Moore: 3-40 Perez Ashford: 5-36 Anthony Johnson: 3-36 Willie Clark: 3-33 Jason Schepler: 3-26 Matt Ng: 3-10 Nick Groeniger: 1-8 Akeem Daniels: 1-6 Furqan Muhammad: 1-6 Pat McAvoy: 1-4
Defense: Brian Lawson: 2.5 sacks Alan Baxter: 1 sack Sean Progar: 1 sack, 1 pass deflection Alex Kube: 1 sack Mike Krause: 1 sack Jordan Delegal: 1 sack, 1 INT Anthony Wells: 1 sack Nabal Jefferson: 0.5 sack Dominique Ware: 1 INT Darnell Bolding: 1 fumble recovery Ross Elliott: 1 fumble recovery