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VIEWS: Turnover battle key to Huskies' success

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(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Northern Illinois defensive end Sean Progar (95) intercepts a pass during the third quarter at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Saturday, Sept. 29. Northern Illinois defeated Central Michigan, 55-24.

DeKALB – Coming into the Northern Illinois' Mid-American Conference opener on Saturday against Central Michigan, Sean Progar and the Huskie defense had talked a lot about turnovers.

More specifically, the lack thereof.

Outside of three against Tennessee-Martin, NIU hadn't forced a turnover in three of its first four games of the season.

That changed on Saturday as Progar came up with the key play of the game, picking off a deflected pass with CMU driving in the Huskie red zone. The senior defensive end returned it 21 yards and the Chippewas only managed a field goal the rest of the way in NIU's 55-24 victory. 

Dechane Durante later recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.

"It's definitely something we've been emphasizing in practice and talking about as a defense," Progar said. "Those were two big turning points. We thought the momentum shifted on both of those plays. It was definitely big for the defense, and the team as well."

The impact plays on defense were something that had been missing in NIU's victories over Army and Kansas. The Huskies had come up with key stops on third and fourth downs, but the immediate-change-in-possession-type plays were lacking. 

But when the turnovers came on Saturday, NIU's offense made sure to capitalize. Jordan Lynch's 9-yard touchdown run capped a nine-play drive following Progar's interception and Durante's fumble recovery also turned into seven points when kicker Mathew Sims ran in for a touchdown on a fake field goal.

"When they give you a short field you have to capitalize," NIU coach Dave Doeren said. "To do that is huge and i think for the defense to see that's going to happen when they give them the short field will only fuel the fire."

On the opposite end, Saturday was the first game NIU didn't turn the ball over. It was Jordan Lynch's first career start without a fumble or an interception after recording one turnover in each of the first four games of the season.

"I felt that's how we got our first loss against Iowa, turning the ball over," Lynch said. "Just don't turn the ball over and we'll be fine."

"Fine" could be an understatement for a Huskie team that won the turnover battle for only the second time this season. The offense has proven it can put points on the board. And with Saturday's 55-point outburst against Central Michigan, there isn't much doubt NIU can win in a shootout. See the 42-41 win over Army for recent historical proof. 

But if the defense can consistently give NIU extra possessions and Lynch takes care of the football, the Huskies may be making a third consecutive trip to Detroit in late November.

And that's something Progar won't mind talking about.  Coming into the Northern Illinois' Mid-American Conference opener on Saturday against Central Michigan, Sean Progar and the Huskie defense had talked a lot about turnovers.

More specifically, the lack thereof.

Outside of three against Tennessee-Martin, NIU hadn't forced a turnover in three of its first four games of the season.

That changed on Saturday as Progar came up with the key play of the game, picking off a deflected pass with CMU driving in the Huskie red zone. The senior defensive end returned it 21 yards and the Chippewas only managed a field goal the rest of the way in NIU's 55-24 victory. 

Dechane Durante later recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.

"It's definitely something we've been emphasizing in practice and talking about as a defense," Progar said. "Those were two big turning points. We thought the momentum shifted on both of those plays. It was definitely big for the defense, and the team as well."

The impact plays on defense were something that had been missing in NIU's victories over Army and Kansas. The Huskies had come up with key stops on third and fourth downs, but the immediate-change-in-possession-type plays were lacking. 

But when the turnovers came on Saturday, NIU's offense made sure to capitalize. Jordan Lynch's 9-yard touchdown run capped a nine-play drive following Progar's interception and Durante's fumble recovery also turned into seven points when kicker Mathew Sims ran in for a touchdown on a fake field goal.

"When they give you a short field you have to capitalize," NIU coach Dave Doeren said. "To do that is huge and i think for the defense to see that's going to happen when they give them the short field will only fuel the fire."

On the opposite end, Saturday was the first game NIU didn't turn the ball over. It was Jordan Lynch's first career start without a fumble or an interception after recording one turnover in each of the first four games of the season.

"I felt that's how we got our first loss against Iowa, turning the ball over," Lynch said. "Just don't turn the ball over and we'll be fine."

"Fine" could be an understatement for a Huskie team that won the turnover battle for only the second time this season. The offense has proven it can put points on the board. And with Saturday's 55-point outburst against Central Michigan, there isn't much doubt NIU can win in a shootout. See the 42-41 win over Army for recent historical proof. 

But if the defense can consistently give NIU extra possessions and Lynch takes care of the football, the Huskies may be making a third consecutive trip to Detroit in late November.

And that's something Progar won't mind talking about.

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