DEKALB – Less than 10 seconds into the postgame press conference, Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren confirmed what everyone else was thinking.
After a myriad of close contests and fourth-quarter comebacks in NIU’s first six games of the season, the Huskies put together their best 60-minute performance in a 45-3 shellacking of Buffalo at home.
“That was our most complete game that I think we’ve had in the two years I’ve been here,” Doeren said. “We were aggressive in all three phases. There was a lot of great execution that took place on the field [Saturday].”
Even Doeren didn’t have a lot to complain about after his team remained undefeated in the Mid-American Conference and increased its Huskie Stadium winning streak to 19 games. His biggest gripe: Marlon Moore’s interception return out of his own end zone after picking off Buffalo QB Alex Zordich in the third quarter.
“You need to stay in the end zone, dude,” Doeren told Moore, smiling. “Rookie mistake.”
Whether it was four fourth-down conversions or a successful fake punt in the second quarter, everything NIU wanted to do Saturday, it did. And seemingly with ease.
The Huskies ran the ball well and challenged Buffalo’s defense over the top with successful down-field throws.
Defensively, NIU stopped the run and the cornerbacks contested passes. Without safety Jimmie Ward, who was ejected late in the second quarter, the Huskies held Buffalo to 4 of 12 on third down
Remember when all the talk about the defense centered around in its inability to to get turnovers? That’s safely been put to rest after the unit forced another three turnovers, all of which came on Buffalo trips in the red zone during the second half.
The result: The Huskies’ widest margin of victory of the year and a season-low three points allowed.
The Huskies have won six in a row after their opening-week loss to Iowa. And a lot of it has come through extra-effort plays. Leading 28-3 in the third quarter, Martel Moore dragged two Buffalo defenders for 12 yards into the end zone. Lynch, who makes churns out more yards after contact than anyone else, was even impressed.
“That was something special,” Lynch said. “That’s always nice to see.”
NIU finally put away an inferior opponent without involving any fourth-quarter heroics. While the late-game comebacks have made for great theatre, Doeren will surely take another fourth quarter standing by Jordan Lynch on the sideline with a 39-point lead, even if he says he wasn’t relaxed.
“I had a feeling it would be a tight game or a blowout,” Doeren said. “I think we’ve been really close. We’ve had some teams on the ropes.”
Saturday, NIU finally cut it loose.