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Western Illinois post-mortem

A few thoughts after Northern Illinois' dismantling of the Leathernecks...

It's kind of surprising that this has become a subplot to the season so far, but sophomore quarterback Chandler Harnish has done almost everything he's set out to do in his second year under center for the Huskies.

Harnish was again efficient on Saturday, taking what the defense gives him, not making mistakes and even picking up running back Me'co Brown after Brown's early fumble.

Harnish has completed 65.8 percent of his passes, has yet to commit a turnover, and is getting support from his run game. He is also on pace for 1,902 passing yards, which would be an increase of almost 400 yards from 2008.

"The line did a great job blocking, and they gave me time to throw the ball," Harnish said after the game. "The receivers were catching their passes, so everything just kind of worked itself out."

One note on Brown's fumble: The ball was in his right, non-injured hand. Brown carried the ball mostly in his right hand throughout the game.

I am increasingly subscribing to the theory that time of possession is one of the most overrated stats in football. Saturday was a perfect example of that.

Time of possession: Western Illinois: 32:10 NIU: 27:50

Points: Western Illinois: 7 NIU: 41

It doesn't matter how long you have the ball. What matters is what you do with it when it's yours. NIU had two touchdown drives of less than one minute (30 and 48 seconds).

Freshman linebacker Devon Butler keeps earning more snaps with his play. The same goes for Jordan Delegal and Tyrone Clark. That said, I think Alex Kube is close to a big game and Cory Hanson continues to impress.

Safety David Bryant (ankle) was held out and I really didn't see much of a reason to play him with Purdue next on the schedule.

NIU is 10 for 10 on red zone scoring opportunities this season. Obviously if that trend continues, NIU should at least remain competitive in its games.

Big questions for this week:

How will the NIU defense handle the high-scoring Purdue offense? What kind of role will Bryant play on Saturday?

Will Brown be able to hold onto the ball in his left hand against a Big Ten defense?

Can the defensive line get consistent pressure against Purdue?

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