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Analysis: NIU 48, UNLV 34

E-mail Rich Cirminiello 
Follow me … @RichCirminiello

Life after Jordan Lynch in DeKalb? Not so bad actually. Second-year coach Rod Carey is making sure of it. 

Carey and his staff are doing an underrated job at Northern Illinois in the first season without Lynch at the controls of the offense. The Huskies have now captured back-to-back road games, at Northwestern a week ago and Saturday night in Las Vegas over UNLV. Yeah, the Rebels are having issues so far in 2014, but the level of difficulty of winning far from home can never be overstated. 

On a night when the defense crapped out for a change, the offense picked up the slack. More specifically, sophomore QB Drew Hare picked up the slack, accounting for four touchdowns, three through the air and one on the ground. It wasn’t Lynch in terms of the prolific numbers, but it wasn’t a bad impression for a first-year starter. 

Northern Illinois has thrived on the road, with another test upcoming next Saturday at Arkansas. Win or lose in Fayetteville, Carey has the Huskies playing like a team that’s going to once again contend this season in the MAC West. 

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

UNLV tried to come all the way back, but short of winning a defense in one of the nearby casinos, it was for not. This always figured to be an interesting matchup with an NIU team looking to do damage on the ground versus a Rebel team looking to cash in on air miles. It didn’t disappoint as Northern Illinois rushed for 331 yards, and UNLV quarterback Blake Decker threw for 397 through the desert air.

As exciting as all the offense is these days, just how far each of these teams go in their respective conference will depend on being able provide at least a little resistance. Perhaps most alarming if you are a Rebel fan is the defense’s inability to stop the Husky rushing attack time and time again on third downs. NIU converted an alarming 15 out of 19 opportunities on third down and simply wore down the UNLV defenders.

And how about giving credit to a Northern Illinois squad that is navigating a rather formidable non-conference schedule? After the easy, breezy win against Presbyterian at home, the Huskies have been nomads by winning on the road against Northwestern and UNLV and are ready to head to Fayetteville to square off with the big, bad SEC opponent Arkansas.

Win that one and maybe it’s time to start thinking of Northern Illinois as the team to beat in the MAC.

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