LIVE BLOG: NIU vs. Buffalo

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Northern Illinois 38, Buffalo 14; 7:19 left in 4th quarter.

Following an ugly first half that included three scoreless trips into the red zone, Northern Illinois dominated the second half for the second straight week to defeat Buffalo 45-14 in front of a homecoming crowd of 21,230 at Huskie Stadium.

NIU (5-2, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) outscored Buffalo (2-4, 1-1 MAC) 24-0 in the second half, a week after outscoring Temple 14-0 in the second half of a 31-17 win.

The NIU offense struggled early on. Michael Cklamovski missed his first three field-goal attempts from 26, 51 and 25 yards, and Chandler Harnish threw two interceptions, one of which was returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Buffalo defensive lineman Gordon DuBois to tie the game 7-7 in the second quarter.

But the Huskies offense rebounded in the second half. Chad Spann rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 31 carries. Harnish (13 of 26 passing for 160 yards, 75 yards rushing) added a rushing touchdown and two passing touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Lynch replaced Harnish midway through the fourth quarter and ran for a 95-yard touchdown.

The Huskies host Central Michigan (2-5, 1-3 MAC) next Saturday to finish a three-game homestand.

Northern Illinois 38, Buffalo 14; 7:19 left in 4th quarter.

Stick a fork in Buffalo. Chandler Harnish’s 12-yard touchdown run has put the Huskies up four possessions. The Huskies have been dominant in the second half the last two games.

Northern Illinois 31, Buffalo 14; end of 3rd quarter.

Today’s announced attendance was 21,230. It’s the best crowd at Huskie Stadium since 21,427 showed up for last year’s home opener against Western Illinois, a 41-7 Huskies win. The students showed up today following a poor attendance last week (14,011 announced attendance) against Temple.

Buffalo is facing a must-get 4th-and-2 at the NIU 31-yard line when we resume to start the fourth quarter. The Bulls could be finished if they don't convert.

Northern Illinois 31, Buffalo 14; 3:51 left in 3rd quarter.

The NIU offense got back to the basics on their last scoring drive, pounding it out with Chad Spann and Ricky Crieder, mixed in with short passes from Chandler Harnish. The 11-play, 57-yard drive was capped by Spann's second touchdown of the day, a two-yard plunge. Buffalo’s offense only has three first downs today, so the Huskies look like they have a big enough cushion.

Northern Illinois 24, Buffalo 14; 12:02 left in 3rd quarter.

Michael Cklamovski hit his first of four field goal attempts on the day, a 34-yarder, to put NIU up by two possessions. Buffalo’s facemask on Chandler Harnish set the Huskies up. I don’t know how Harnish stayed standing following the facemask by Jaleel Verser, as his head was almost parallel to the ground while his body was upright.

Northern Illinois 21, Buffalo 14; halftime.

Welcome to the Ugly Bowl here at Huskie Stadium.

Both teams are playing poorly, though Buffalo is playing just a little worse, giving NIU the ball five times within their own 32-yard line. But NIU just got beat deep for an 81-yard touchdown pass from Jerry Davis to Marcus Rivers to keep the Bulls in it.

NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish looks shaken, rattled and/or rolled. After a 4-for-5 start, Harnish has struggled. He’s 5-for-15 since and has thrown two interceptions, one overthrown pass to Nathan Palmer in the end zone and another that was returned for a touchdown after taking a big hit.

The Buffalo defense is tricky for a quarterback to read as they blitz on almost every play with different players out of different alignments. Harnish was forced to ground a ball at Chad Spann’s feet after multiple hurries. The wind also could be playing a role when the Huskies head toward the south goal into the strong gusts, but Harnish seems to have lacked the composure he’s had in recent weeks.

Still, he’s thrown two touchdown passes – Willie Clark made a great adjustment to an underthrown ball for a 25-yard touchdown catch – as the Huskies have started five drives within the Buffalo 32-yard line.

Northern Illinois 7, Buffalo 7; 7:32 left in 2nd quarter.

This is starting to eerily resemble NIU’s week 2 win over North Dakota. Buffalo should be down big, but Gordon DuBois just intercepted Chandler Harnish for a 26-yard touchdown after the NIU quarterback was hit by Khalil Mack while throwing. Harnish’s last interception also went for a touchdown against North Dakota.

Northern Illinois 7, Buffalo 0; 8:24 left in 2nd quarter

For the third time this game, Northern Illinois received the ball within the Buffalo 30-yard line and for the second time, the Huskies failed to score in the redzone as Michael Cklamovski missed his third field goal attempt of the game. He’s now missed from 26, 51 and 25 yards.

Northern Illinois 7, Buffalo 0; 11:58 left in 2nd quarter

Buffalo gave NIU the ball at its own seven-yard line following a muffed punt. Chad Spann, who has six yards on his last four carries, was limited on the first two plays of the drive, but Chandler Harnish completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Landon Cox to give the Huskies the lead.

Buffalo has given NIU the ball within their own 30-yard line twice today.

Northern Illinois 0, Buffalo 0; end of 1st quarter

Not the greatest first quarter for NIU. The Huskies offense has been slowed as the Bulls front seven looks set on stopping Chad Spann (nine carries for 32 yards). The experienced Buffalo secondary has been physical and is giving the Huskies fits. Chandler Harnish, who completed more than 80 percent of his passes the previous two games, is 4 of 7 for 36 yards.

But the defense has allowed only one first down on three Bulls’ possessions.

Northern Illinois 0, Buffalo 0; 6:00 left in 1st quarter

The Northern Illinois defense doesn’t seem surprised by anything the Buffalo offense is running. The Huskies have forced the Bulls to back-to-back three-and-outs. Michael Cklamovski’s consecutive field goal streak ended at seven after he missed a 26-yard attempt wide right with the wind at his back. He also missed a 51-yard attempt on the Huskies last drive.

It could be a Chad Spann kind of day as the NIU senior ahas rushed for 25 yards on his first five carries, but the Huskies’ last drive stalled after a holding penalty and Cklamovski’s second missed field goal.

Note: Ed Jackson started at left guard today in place of Logan Pegram, who is No. 2 on the depth chart. It is the first promotion/demotion for NIU due to reasons other than injury since the Huskies benched quarterback DeMarcus Grady in favor of Chandler Harnish in week 2.

15 minutes to kickoff

We just caught up with Rodney McKissic from The Buffalo News. He said to pull off the upset the Bulls have to take care of the ball. Quarterback Jerry Davis has thrown 11 touchdowns this season to lead the MAC but also has thrown a MAC-leading 11 interceptions.

McKissic said a bad day from Davis could lead first-year Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn to make a change at the most important position on the field. After Buffalo moved backup Alex Dennison to tight end, the Bulls other options are freshman second-stringer Alex Zordich and Glenbard West product and Buffalo walk-on freshman Tyler Warden, a Glen Ellyn, Ill., native.

30 minutes to kickoff

It’s been a busy day already in the MAC. Central Michigan continues its struggles as it trails Miami (Ohio) 20-17 late in the fourth quarter. The Chippewas, winners of the MAC West three of the past four years, could come into Huskie Stadium next Saturday with a 2-5 record and 1-4 in the MAC. If NIU wins today and defeats CMU next week, it could be the official passing of the crown as top dog in the MAC West.

In other MAC action, Ball State and Eastern Michigan are tied 28-28 in the third quarter, Western Michigan is tied at Notre Dame 7-7, Temple leads Bowling Green14-6 and Ohio is crushing Akron 24-0. Toledo hosts Kent State at 6 p.m.

45 minutes to kickoff

I caught up with NIU men’s basketball coach Ricardo Patton yesterday to talk about his new-look team.

Gone are three of the team’s top four scorers, all of who left for reasons other than graduation. In are five newcomers: junior college transfers Tim Toler and Cameron Madlock and freshmen Aksel Bolin, Kyree Jones and Nate Rucker.

“I like their talent. I think their talent is good enough,” Patton said. “There’s certainly a clear difference in how hard they’ve had to work in their previous programs and what we expect of them now, but because they enjoy competing they’ll pick it up a lot quicker.”

Patton will need the latest additions to produce immediately, especially in the frontcourt. The Huskies (10-20, 6-10 Mid-American Conference last season) must replace center Sean Kowal – the team’s leading rebounder who was released of his scholarship during the summer – and forwards Michael Fakuade and Najul Ervin, who received significant minutes last season.

Toler, a 6-foot-7 forward weighing almost 300 pounds, and Madlock, an athletic 6-foot-9 forward, give NIU two different looks in the post. And 6-foot-6 freshman Nate Rucker is instantly one of the team’s tougher, more athletic options up front.

“I think the guys we brought in, we brought in to contribute right away,” Patton said. “Certainly when you bring in junior college kids like a Tim Toler and Cameron Madlock, you need those guys to come in ready to play.”

Jones, a 6-foot-2, 20-year-old freshman, also will receive a long look at point guard, a position the Huskies have struggled to fill with a consistent ballhandler and playmaker. But Patton said he probably won’t have a clear starting lineup until after the Huskie’s exhibition game against Coe College on Nov. 6.

“That’ll all kind of shake itself out as we get weeks of practice under our belts,” Patton said.

60 minutes to kickoff

It’s another busy Saturday for NIU athletics. Not only is today’s football game against Buffalo homecoming, but men’s basketball practice officially started today.

NIU volleyball, which has won six straight matches to improve to 20-2 on the season (the best start in program history) and 6-1 in MAC play, hosts Buffalo at 7 p.m. at Victor E. Court. Fans can present their football tickets at the door and only pay $1 in attendance. NIU also will be taking donations for breast cancer awareness. The football team will honor the month by wearing some pink accessories for next Saturday's home game against Central Michigan.

75 minutes to kickoff

There is a strong wind blowing from the south and it could have a big impact on today’s game. Punting into the wind, the Huskies punters kicks died after about 20 yards. Even the strong-legged Michael Cklamovski, NIU's senior kicker, is having to put everything into his kicks on 45-yard attempts, most of which fell short or just made it over the crossbar.

90 minutes to kickoff

Jeremy Werner here, live from the press box high above Huskie Stadium. Daily Chronicle sports editor John Sahly will join me shortly as we at HuskieWire again will provide comprehensive coverage of today's Mid-American Conference matchup between the Northern Illinois (4-2, 2-0 MAC) and Buffalo (2-3, 1-0 MAC).

Traffic was a little heavier than it was during last week's 11 a.m. kickoff with Temple, and there is a lot more activity and traffic in the parking lots surrounding the stadium. I think we'll have a lot more fans here today than last week's disappointing 14,011 attendance. Homecoming of course has something to do with that, as does the 2:30 p.m. kickoff, which you know students prefer.

Below is the coverage from today's print edition of the Daily Chronicle, which included a full-page poster of Sycamore graduate and NIU junior tight end Jason Schepler. Go pick up a copy!

Preview story: Buffalo Bulls enter today rested

5 keys to victory: NIU must adjust to UB's different looks on offense and defense

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Will NIU football win the MAC this season?