E. Michigan-N. Illinois Preview
As Northern Illinois looks to extend two of the longest winning streaks in the nation, Eastern Michigan must continue to move forward while grieving a fallen teammate who would have returned to play in his home state Saturday.
Looking for a 24th consecutive home victory and 21st straight win in the Mid-American Conference, the No. 23 Huskies (7-0, 3-0) look to extend their recent dominance over the Eagles.
Tasked with trying to stop versatile quarterback Jordan Lynch and a Northern Illinois team that owns the longest active FBS winning streaks at home and in conference play, Eastern Michigan (1-6, 0-3) will be trying to come to grips with last week's death of starting receiver Demarius Reed.
The junior was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds early Friday morning in the hallway of an off-campus apartment building in what police said was an apparent robbery.
"Our hearts go out to them," NIU coach Rod Carey said.
Reed, who had 15 receptions for 185 yards and a touchdown this season, grew up in Chicago, approximately 70 miles northeast of the Northern Illinois campus.
"We lost a terrific leader," EMU coach Ron English said.
"We're going to stay together and keep the team together throughout the remainder of the season and continue to work on their character as young men, and that's really what our focus is."
In the process, the Eagles must find a way to stop Lynch, who rushed 32 times for 316 yards - an FBS record for a quarterback - and three touchdowns in a 38-17 win at Central Michigan last Saturday.
"The holes were so wide open; it was nothing I did," said Lynch, who broke the previous record of 308 set by former NIU quarterback Stacey Robinson in 1990.
Lynch, who will be trying to lead the Huskies to their first 8-0 start since 1965, also threw for 155 yards with a TD and an interception. NIU totaled 592 yards and outscored the Chippewas 24-3 in the second half.
"With all the weapons we have - Jordan, (running back) Cameron Stingily, (receivers) Da'Ron Brown and Tommylee (Lewis) and our tight ends, each defense plays us a little differently," Carey said. "Defenses have to make a choice and then we take what they are giving you."
Lynch leads FBS quarterbacks with 932 rushing yards and has thrown for 1,488 with 14 TDs and five picks this season. He guides an offense that's seventh in the country with 519.9 yards per game and tops the MAC at 39.4 points a contest.
The senior totaled 275 yards and threw a touchdown during the Huskies' 49-7 victory at Eastern Michigan on Nov. 23.
NIU, which last lost a conference game Oct. 1, 2011 and hasn't been defeated at home since Sept. 26, 2009, has outscored the Eagles 225-28 during a five-game series winning streak.
EMU has allowed an average of 49.8 points and 523.3 total yards in its last four overall.
The Eagles opened last Saturday's 56-28 home loss to Ohio with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tyler Allen.
''I know that our football team and our coaching staff really wanted to honor Demarius by giving our best effort and we wanted to give our best effort for four quarters," English said. "I thought our team and our coaches really played hard and really worked at it."
Bronson Hill ran for a season-high 257 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against the Bobcats. He's averaged 145.8 yards and 7.5 per carry over the last four contests, but was held to 29 on 11 attempts against the Huskies last season.
The Eagles, losers of six in a row, have never beaten a ranked opponent.