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NIU

Carifio: NIU's MAC wins are most important stat

Childers not posting gaudy passing stats but makes plays when it matters

(Saturday September 29th 2018 Eastern Michigan University - Ypsilanti, MI) NIU Huskie quarterback Marcus Childers runs the ball against Eastern Michigan University on Saturday night in Ypsilanti, Mich. The Huskies defeated the EMU Eagles in triple overtime, 26-23.
(Saturday September 29th 2018 Eastern Michigan University - Ypsilanti, MI) NIU Huskie quarterback Marcus Childers runs the ball against Eastern Michigan University on Saturday night in Ypsilanti, Mich. The Huskies defeated the EMU Eagles in triple overtime, 26-23.

Huskies quarterback Marcus Childers’ passing stats aren’t dazzling anyone, but to evaluate him solely on passing numbers overlooks his overall ability to move the offense.

Childers averaged 6.1 yards a completion Saturday at Eastern Michigan, not a great number in a game that the Huskies needed a series of increasingly improbable plays to come away with a 26-23, triple overtime win.

But Childers had another weapon at his disposal that was crucial – his legs.

His 17 carries for 77 yards also might look pedestrian. But dig deeper into those numbers. Childers ran for first downs six times in the first half. Five of those runs were on third or fourth down – including a third and 9 and a third and 14.

Then, after not getting a first down on a carry for the entire second half, Childers came up with another great play in the third overtime. On its first set of downs, NIU trailed 23-20 and was facing a third and 4 from the Eagles’ 19. Sure, a 36-yard field goal seems like a fairly safe bet. But it was a weird game when it came to field goals – EMU in particular missed field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime.

So Childers runs for another first down, this time for 5 yards. Tre Harbison had the next four carries, including breaking through for a 1-yard touchdown on third and goal to seal the win.

“Anytime you can pick up third downs with your feet or your arms, that’s good,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “And look, I don’t know where [Childers] ended up [on passing stats], but at halftime he was 13 of 22 or something like that. They weren’t going to give us anything deep, so we had to take the soft, underneath stuff. And he did a good job of it.”

After 12 pass attempts in the first quarter, Childers finished 20-of-35 passing for 121 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

No one’s arguing these numbers are great. Or pretty. Or close to great or pretty.

But NIU picked up another MAC win with him under center, and he helped the Huskies win by making crucial plays.

“I thought he played well. My gut is he played well,” Carey said. “I think the first scrambles early in the game, he was just floating out there. He just needs to run. And then when he decided to run, I thought he played really well.”

Carey said Childers had the biggest play of the night on the third-down scramble in the third overtime.

“I think that was probably the biggest difference in the whole thing was the overtime scramble,” Carey said. “He needs to be a decisive runner, and tonight he was.”

And not for nothing, but Childers did throw an overtime touchdown pass with his team down 20-13, finding Ty Harms on of a fade route for an 11-yard TD. A high-pressure situation, and Childers made a throw.

As it stands this season, the Huskies are not making the Orange Bowl with Childers. They are not beating top, or possibly even midlevel, Power 5 schools.

But they are getting enough from Childers to support the defense, win MAC games and contend for a conference title.

And isn’t another MAC title a pretty statistic?

• Eddie Carifio is the Daily Chronicle’s sports editor. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2224, email ecarifio@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DDCEddieCarifio.

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