N. Illinois-Cent. Michigan Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 15, 2013
If Northern Illinois is to extend two of the nation's top winning streaks, it must find a way to end its recent road struggles against Central Michigan. Hoping to continue the longest conference win streak in the FBS, the No. 23 Huskies try for a 13th consecutive victory away from home while avoiding a fourth straight road loss to the Chippewas on Saturday. With last Saturday's 27-20 home win over Akron, Northern Illinois (6-0, 2-0) has won 19 straight over Mid-American Conference opponents. That run dates to a 48-41 defeat at Central Michigan on Oct. 1, 2011. That also was the last time the Huskies dropped a road game to any opponent. Their 12 straight victories away from home is currently the second-longest run in the FBS behind Oregon's 18-game road winning streak. However, the Huskies have allowed an average of 42.7 points during a three-game slide at Central Michigan (3-4, 2-1) dating back to 2005. If NIU is to end that skid and continue its best start since the 2003 squad went 7-0, it likely needs another stingy defensive effort like the one it displayed against Akron. The Huskies allowed averages of 29.8 points and 479.4 total yards through the first five games before setting season lows in both categories. While holding the Zips to 372 yards, NIU recorded two sacks to raise its total to 19 and notched its 10th interception - both tied for ninth in the FBS. The defense outperformed a Huskies offense that averaged 42.2 points, 529.6 total yards and 303.4 on the ground prior to rushing for 179 and totaling 399 yards last week. "We're playing good defense," coach Rod Carey said. "You learn that our defense is a good defense and they have the ability to carry us, and (last Saturday) they did." Central Michigan is among the country's lowest-scoring teams at 18.9 points per contest, but scored a season high in last Saturday's 26-23 win at Ohio. The Chippewas prevailed despite the absence of Titus Davis, third in the MAC with 86.3 receiving yards per game, and he could miss a second straight contest with an undisclosed upper-body injury. "When one of us goes down, the others are expected to pick up the group. That's just a given," receiver Courtney Williams told Central Michigan's official website after catching the go-ahead TD pass with 22 seconds remaining. Davis' only catch last season at NIU went for a 92-yard touchdown at the beginning of the second half to get the Chippewas within 24-21, but they went on to lose 55-24. Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch tore apart the Central Michigan defense, passing for 215 yards, running for 144 and recording a TD each way. Lynch also had one of each last week and totaled 303 yards, but he looked uncomfortable at times while completing 16 of 35 passes and guiding an offense that went 1 for 15 on third down. "I never got into a good rhythm throwing and making completions," said Lynch, seventh in the 2012 Heisman Trophy voting. "It really comes down to us, though. (Going) 1 of 15 on third downs is unacceptable. It's not the coaches' faults, it's on us. We're anxious to get back out there and make corrections." After rushing for a career-high 266 yards and two TDs on 37 carries in a 38-24 win at Kent State on Oct. 5, NIU's Cameron Stingily managed 80 and a score on 21 attempts against the Zips. Central Michigan has allowed 230 rushing yards in two wins this month after yielding 491 while losing its final two games of September. The Chippewas' 20-3 victory over No. 18 Michigan State on Sept. 14, 1991, is the program's most recent win over a ranked opponent.
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