DeKALB – After three games, Northern Illinois football ranks 90th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up an average of 31 points a contest.
The Huskies rank 100th in total defense with an average of 448 yards allowed a game.
NIU coach Rod Carey doesn’t think his defense is broken by any means. He said his team needs to get out to better starts and execute better.
Each week, the Huskies have been stronger in the second half of games. NIU is giving up an average of only 9.7 points after halftime. Carey wants to see better starts.
“It’s not like a major fix, major scheme change needs to happen,” Carey said during Tuesday’s weekly news conference. “I think we’ve got to get out to a faster start. We’ve got to have our cleats under us, and we have to respond earlier.”
NIU has forced eight turnovers, and the Huskies’ turnover margin of plus-1.50 is 11th in the country.
“[Credit] comes all across the board,” linebacker Boomer Mays said of the defense’s propensity to force turnovers. “It starts on the D-line, linebackers, DBs. Basically, everybody does their part.”
Other notes from Tuesday’s news conference:
• Carey still doesn’t have a timetable on tailback Akeem Daniels’ return. The senior has yet to participate in a full practice.
• Carey reiterated that quarterback Jordan Lynch is fine. He missed a couple of plays in the second half of Saturday’s win over Eastern Illinois.
“He had bumps and bruises like everybody,” Carey said. “He’ll be fine. I’m sure his bruise isn’t completely away yet, but he’ll be fine.”
• The Huskies’ average of 85.5 penalty yards a game ranks 118th in the nation. NIU committed 14 penalties for 119 yards. The Panthers had 14 for 126 yards.
“I wish I could generalize it. When you have 14, you have every type of penalty. It’s a lot of things, so we have to control what we can,” Carey said. “The ones that are controllable in there, we have to get those eliminated and out of our deal. So, we’re going to work hard to do that.”
Tight end Luke Eakes said some of the penalties against Eastern Illinois were because NIU lost its composure.
“They came out and they were talking trash. We just kind of talked right back and then everyone started pushing each other after the whistle and stuff,” Eakes said. “We weren’t detailed enough to keep our composure. It got the best of us sometimes.”