Friday’s preview: Northern Illinois vs. Ohio
By Rick Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org December 1, 2011 6:28PM
Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren talks to his players during practice Thursday at Ford Field in Detroit. The Huskies will play Ohio in the MAC Championship game Friday. | Carlos Osorio~The Associated Press
Updated: January 3, 2012 10:36AM
DETROIT — Take a look in the mirror.
That, apparently, is what the football teams from Northern Illinois and Ohio University could be doing Friday when they meet at Ford Field in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game.
“Honestly, schematically, they’re a lot like us,” NIU first-year coach Dave Doeren said. “If you’re gonna compare them, you’d compare them to us.
“They run a lot of the same plays on offense. We have similar quarterbacks. We have similar skill. We both have offensive lines that are physical and big. Defensively, we’re both 4-3 teams that play a lot of the same coverages.”
Northern (9-3, 7-1) is led by the league’s Vern Smith Award (MVP) winner, redshirt senior quarterback Chandler Harnish (6-foot-2, 221 pounds).
The front man for coach Frank Solich’s Bobcats (9-3, 6-2) is third team all-MAC selection Tyler Tettleton, a redshirt sophomore who is 5-11, 205.
Both are dual-threat quarterbacks who have each accounted for 34 touchdowns this season. Harnish has 4,043 yards of total offense (1,351 running, 2,692 passing) and Tettleton has 3,440 yards with 576 rushing and 2,864 passing.
“(Tettleton) reminds me a lot of (Harnish backup) Jordan Lynch,” Doeren said. “He’s a shorter guy, kind of a running back playing quarterback. He looks to run pretty early in his pass progression.
“A lot of the routes on third down are down-the-field routes where they are clearing people out, so if no one’s open, he can get going. He’s very dangerous.”
NIU features senior running back Jasmin Hopkins, a second team all-MAC selection with 872 rushing yards and 15 TDs. Ohio counters with third-teamer, senior Donte’ Harden (866 yards, 2 TDs).
Both quarterbacks spread the ball around in the passing game. NIU has six receivers with 200 or more yards receiving, led by Nathan Palmer (42 catches, 568 yards). OU has five, paced by LaVon Brazill (58-914), who is on pace to become the school’s first 1,000-yard receiver.
The teams rank 2-3 in the league in total offense with Northern averaging 488.2 yards per game and Ohio third at 461.
Defensively, the Bobcats have a distinct advantage, ranked fourth in the league (351.1 yards allowed) to Northern’s ninth (421.7). If they are vulnerable, though, it would appear to be through the air, where they are ranked ninth in the league — one place ahead of NIU.
Solich gives OU an edge in coaching experience. He has averaged seven wins a season in his seven years at the school in Athens. That was preceded by a six-year stint at Nebraska, where he was fired after averaging 9.6 wins a year in that span.
“They’ll be disciplined. They’ll be hard-nosed. They’ll be football savvy,” Doeren said. “(Solich) does a good job of teaching football IQ. There are not a lot of things, if anything, that Frank hasn’t seen.”