DeKALB – During practice last week, Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren would put the ball on the 1-yard line. He would tell his players “Fourth-and-1” and challenge his team to pick it up, yelling and screaming at his offense.
Simply put, NIU’s second-year head coach thinks his team is strong enough to convert on those short-yardage situations. It picked up the yards during practice, and did the same during Saturday’s 45-3 win over Buffalo.
Doeren trusted his team on fourth down early, and all four of the Huskies’ first-half fourth down tries were converted rather easily. NIU was 4-for-5 on fourth down on the afternoon.
On the Huskies’ first drive, NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch picked up 7 yards on a fourth-and-1 from the Buffalo 21.
The drive ended on a Da’Ron Brown 12-yard touchdown run.
Facing a 4th-and-goal from the Bulls’ 1-yard line in the second quarter, Lynch handed the ball to Akeem Daniels, who went to his right and ran into the end zone. Just one drive later, Lynch scored a 4-yard touchdown when Doeren decided to go for it on 4th-and-2.
“It’s only a yard. Sometimes a yard can be a long way,” Lynch said. “All we need is just to make contact [with the defensive line], just stand them up, strain we call it. If I find a little crease I’ll get it.”
The Huskies also converted a fake punt for the second time this season, when Luke Eakes took a direct snap and ran 32 yards when NIU faced a 4th-and-7 from its own 40 during the second quarter.
Stingy statement: On Saturday, NIU’s defense held a team to no touchdowns for the first time since 2010.
Bowl-eligible: With Saturday’s win NIU became bowl-eligible by garnering its sixth victory of the season. It’s the fifth consecutive year the Huskies have been eligible for a bowl game.
“We talked a lot about what a win today would mean,” Doeren said. “It means that we’re bowl-eligible. It doesn’t mean that we’re in a bowl yet, but we’re eligible for a bowl, all of us want to go to one.
Moore joins elite club: NIU senior receiver Martel Moore caught eight passes for 133 yards and a touchdown in the victory. With the performance, Moore eclipsed 2,000 yards for his career, becoming the fifth receiver in school history to reach the mark. His eight catches tied a career-high.
“Martel played like a senior today,” Doeren said. “The window’s closing, we’re going to miss the dude. ... I just love when the seniors play their best. I think that’s a testament to your coaching and to the development of your program.”
More milestones: With the victory, the Huskies also got their 19th consecutive win at Huskie Stadium, and won their 11th consecutive contest in the Mid-American Conference, the current longest streak in the league.
NIU’s senior class (2009-12) also tied the mark for most wins by any class in school history with 35 victories.