Kent State Game Thoughts
It seems like a lot longer than a day ago doesn't it? What a crazy 24 hours. I didn't think it could get any more stressful than last year, but this game find a way to do it. I think we all just need to be prepared for abunch of weird stuff to happen anytime we play in Detroit. I feel like the last two years kind of evened us out for the Akron and Miami games, so maybe we can finally let this go.
I want to start with Akeem Daniels. 17 carries, 128 yards, TD. 4 catches, 68 yards. A lot of that production came in the 4th quarter and OT when it counted most. I'll pat myself on the back here and point out that I've thought all year (even with Settle and Womble) that he was clearly the best back on the team. He's fast. He runs hard. He blocks. He catches. He really is a complete back. Thank goodness he's finally gotten his chance to be the guy, and just in time. I know everyone wants to talk about Lynch (and I will), but I really thought Akeem was the difference on offense yesterday. I can't wait to see him with a full year next year. Maybe he'll be able to take a bit of the workload off Lynch.
My lord Ken Bishop. The most dominating game I've seen from an interior defensive, um maybe ever? And it wasn't just that! Go back and watch the game and watch when they have in as a FB. Dude was laying people out coming out of the backfield. On Lynch's 4th and inches run, he pancakes somebody and on his TD run in the second overtime he does as well. Also, he's the one who was chasing Keith on the last play of the game. An unbelievable game by him. You can't say enough about the game he played.
I am about as big of a Chandler fan as you'll find, but sorry Chandler, your reign as best QB in NIU history lasted less than a year. Forget about production, forget about the wins, look at the abuse he takes. He carried the ball 36 times last night. 36 times, as a QB. If we ran a running back 36 times, he would be exhausted. And it's not like he runs out of bounds, ever. Then you add in the fact he threw it 34 times as well and you just think how astonishing it is what he does. I hate David Pollack, but really the best way to put it is he is a grown man. He takes more punishment than any football player I've ever seen, and he just keeps coming back for me. He was gassed yesterday though. I noticed he was tired in the first half, and he was for sure in the 2nd half. His 4th and inches run is a TD if he's at full speed. He's amazing though. He's a freak of an athlete. He's special.
We all know we have the most talent in the MAC, which is a credit to both Kill and Doeren. If you want to try to put a "face" so to speak on talent, compare our defensive line to defensive lines in our conference. Our line is at a different level, and it's really at a different level than some Big 10 schools. Look back at the Iowa game, they couldn't block our line. I said before the game, Kent couldn't block our defensive line last year, and really the reason we dominated the game through three quarters was because of the defensive line. It's not like we have big fat slobs playing inside and hope for the best. We have athletes playing all over the defensive line, and we go like 7 deep. People ask why a guy like Perez Ford was moved to end, this is why. One of the main reasons we're good is our defensive line. It's really a credit to both Ball State and CMU's offensive line for handling our d-line like they did.
Jimmie Ward. 6 total tackles yesterday. Pretty quiet day, right? Wrong. Dude was the answer to the question of Dri Archer. Anytime Archer was in the slot, it was Ward line up with him. Now obviously it wasn't one on one, but Ward was game planed to follow Archer. Even on Dri's deep ball, it wasn't bad coverage by Jimmie, it was just a perfect throw by Keith. You can't say enough about him as a football player. From blocking punts as a freshman, to now where if we play an option team he's playing OLB and in one of the biggest games in school history he's checking maybe the fastest player in league history. He is unreal.
So I patted myself on the back about Akeem Daniels, want to know who I was dead wrong about? Demetrius Stone. Not sure if there's a player on the team I've said more bad things about than Stone. I still think he was used poorly as a CB early in the year, but once Durante went down and Stoney moved to safety, he's played really solid ball. I'm happy for him that he got the last pick. Was I the only one who wasn't watching that play? I couldn't do it. I was already crying and just turned around and waited for fan reaction.
Why I love Doeren and this coaching staff and hope we keep as many as possible: they are what they say they are. How many times have we heard DD says "never flinch" his two years in DeKalb? They preach it, and then they practice it. A.J. fumbles a punt, do they pull him like I wanted to? No, they don't, and A.J. responds by having a really nice return and running like a pissed off S.O.B. Don't think the players don't love that. And then, even more importantly, if you want something to summarize the Dave Doeren tenure in DeKalb. NIU runs the jet sweep option play and Lynch and Daniels drop the ball and Kent State runs it in for a TD. Panic time, right? I know I was shitting in my pants. The VERY next play they call, yep, the read option jet sweep. 4 or 5 plays later, NIU is in the endzone. 2nd overtime, they run it again and Daniels picks up 24 setting up the game winning score. In his two years in DeKalb, he never flinched. He is a hell of a coach, and I'll always love him and root for him for what he did here. That is Dave Doeren.
Mat Sims has gigantic balls. He may not be the best kicker in NIU history, but you could argue he is the most clutch. The Ball State kick last year, obviously the game winner against Ohio, and then about as pressure packed of a kick as he'll ever have and he drilled them all.
Anybody else think NIU should have just kicked the ball out of bounds ever kickoff and let Kent State start at the 35? Still not sure why we didn't just do that.
Really, really happy for Gio Bowers. To go to Akron and then come back here and pay his own way and have a hit like he did on a kickoff last night is a great story. And he got a carry. I really, really hope he gets a scholarship. He deserves it.
What in the hell was Kent State thinking running a reverse to a walk on TE on 3rd and 1 when Durham was rolling along pretty good in overtime? You want to talk about over thinking yourself. My goodness. Hazell is a great coach and he'll pull a Doeren soon enough and go somewhere else, but that was an all time bad playcall. Might have cost himself a BCS bowl with it too.
The MAC and the refs should both be ashamed of what they did last night. I'm not sure I've ever seen a team play a double overtime game and not get called for one penalty. Not one! On Archer's TD run, Bass got blacked in the back. On Keith's TD pass with less than a minute left Progar was held so bad his shoulder pad came out of his jersey. The PI call on Melvin in OT was brutal as well. It's terrible. And we still one.
Couldn't help but be really, really happy for Tyrone Clark. Tipped the now infamous 4th down played against Miami, made a mistake and was forced to watch last year, and now he comes back and gets to win one last year. I know he made a mistake and got suspended and he gets labeled because of that, but as somebody who goes to practice while Tyrone was suspended he was the hardest worker on the team in practice. I remember seeing Army prep last August, and he was playing QB on the scout team. Could not be more happy for him.
Lets be honest here, it was a great game, but the better team one. We out gained them 524 to 260. We were the better team. Props to the entire team for not panicking when things went bad like lord knows all of us were doing. Can't wait to be predicted to not win the West again next year despite bringing the majority of our team back because we have a new head coach. That's fine.