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UB Gameday: Five Things to Watch vs. NIU

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.

Radio 1520 AM. Online: ESPN3.

  1. Big-play runs. They’re killing the Bulls. UB ranks 128th – last – in the nation in run defense, allowing 285 yards a game. Northern Illinois ranks 29th in the nation in rushing, averaging 218 a game. Can the Bulls prevent the big gashes that have killed them the past two weeks? UB has allowed eight 40-plus rushing plays in six games. Last year against UB, Northern Illinois’ fine tailback, Joel Bouagnon, rushed for 156 yards on 28 carries and scored on a 58-yard run.
  1. Jet sweeps. Northern Illinois’ speed receivers are dangerous on end-around plays. UB had more trouble defending the perimeter runs against Ball State last week than between-the-tackles runs. Look for the Huskies to try to get the edge. The NIU wideouts have rushed 36 times for 304 yards on those types of plays this season.
  1. Defending Golladay. Northern Illinois receiver Kenny Golladay leads the MAC with 49 catches for 725 yards and six TDs. UB usually has its cornerbacks play sides and not match up with specific wideouts. So don’t expect Boise Ross to be locked on Golladay all day. Last year, Cameron Lewis jumped a route intended for Golladay and returned the interception 68 yards for a TD. But two scrimmage plays later, Golladay fooled Lewis on a double move and caught a 68-yard bomb for a TD.

UB defensive coordinator Brian Borland on the Huskies’ offense: “I think they’re really good, strong powerful. They can run it at you. But they’ve got ability to run it around you, too. They’ve got a big receiver who they can throw it down the field to. They’ve got speedy receivers they can get the ball to on the edges. You can’t just say we’re going to stop this. You have to stop a lot of things.”

  1. UB pass game. While UB’s defense has a rough challenge, UB’s offense faces a vulnerable foe. The Northern Illinois’ defensive secondary is all banged up, missing both starting cornerbacks. Northern Illinois ranks 127th out of 128 teams in the nation in plays of 20-plus yards allowed (45). By contrast, UB has allowed 28 gains of 20-plus yards, which ranks 58th in the nation. UB should be able to hit some big gainers downfield.

UB QB Tyree Jackson has passed for 556 yards with four TDs and no interceptions the past two games.

  1. Short yardage. UB lost last week in part because it failed on two fourth-and-1 plays in the third quarter, when the game was decided. The Bulls are going to have to convert short yardage plays to keep drives alive and keep pace with the NIU offense. UB’s defense is not keeping the Huskies under 20 points Saturday. The failures last week against Ball State were a shame because UB has been good in short yardage this season. The Bulls are 13 of 16 on conversions on third-and-1 or third-and-2. And they were 4 of 5 on fourth-and-1 plays – before Ball State.
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