A pair of redshirt freshmen stole the spotlight today. Harnish to Palmer. Harnish to Palmer. We'll be hearing that combo being heard over and over again in the next few years. In case you didn't hear, we only lost by 4 points to a (good) Big 11 team 27-31.
Chandler Harnish was everything we wanted to see and more. His poise was unbelievable going 17 for for 29 for 326 yds and 2 TDs. He was able to make a few plays with his feet, running 8 times for 30 yds. I haven't been this excited for an NIU QB since I started going to school here in '05.
Justin Anderson was disappointing rushing for only 38 yds on 13 carries. I really think that Minnesota D must have been keying in on our running game, forcing our freshman QB to make most of the plays.
Montell Clanton must have been a little bit rusty finally returning to the football field after being injured for the last 2 years. He showed some burst, but fumbled the ball on one play and didn't play much after that. Me'co Brown looked solid in limited playing time. I have no idea why Brown was in there for a 3rd and short on one play, as he looked a bit timid and couldn't manage to plow through for a 1st down.
There were also a couple blatant facemask penalties that weren't called against our RBs, which is disappointing.
WR Britt Davis showed off his improved hands leading the team with 4 catches. The offensive star of the game was #81 Nate Palmer who caught 3 receptions for 170 yds and 2 TDs. He is an unbelievable deep threat for this team. Matt Simon caught a few nice balls and was very consistent. TE Reed Cunningham looks like a solid contributor.
I feel as though 2 or 3 pass interference calls weren't made by these Big 10 officials. The one that really killed us was there at the end where #7 Britt was bumped by one of the Minn DBs before the ball even got there. I can only wonder why such blatant calls were not made in this game.
This unit was disappointing because our running game only averaged 2.3 yds per carry and I barely saw any holes being opened up for the running backs. The unit did a good job in pass blocking, giving Harnish time to throw more often than not.
DE Larry English made everybody on the field seem silly, even our own players. He was causing pressure all day which resulted in 2 TFL including a sack, while also recovering a fumble. And for some strange reason, he was out running all of our Linebackers and Secondary 2 times chasing down the Minnesota player who was making a big play. All of our team should look up to this man and his motor.
I'm a little worried otherwise though. I think that DE Craig Rusch got hurt during this game, because I didn't see him in there much later in the game and he only got 1 tackle. DE Brandon Bice made a great play shoving the Minnesota OT down to the ground and sacking the QB. Our goal-line defense wasn't too impressive, but they held their own.
MLB Tim McCarthy is back and he is healthy and productive, making 7 tackles including 2 for loss. WLB Cory Hanson looked lost in coverage half the time and let the TEs fly all over the place, which should have been taken care of by SLB Josh Allen. Allen had some good hits, but whoever is playing SLB needs to cover those TEs better. Didn't see too much of Alex Kube, which was disappointing.
David Bryant looked great at FS making 7 solo tackles and causing a key fumble. I was also unimpressed by CB Melvin Rice who didn't take a great angle at one of the scoring TDs, but did manage to strip the ball on another scoring try by the Gophers. Again, I don't know where those safeties were covering those playmaking TEs.
K Mike Salerno was extremely impressive kicking field goals of 39 and 49 yds. He easily replaces last year's start Chris Nendick. Me'co Brown wasn't too impressive returning kickoffs, but he didn't make any critical mistakes. He should flourish in the next couple games.
Our Kickoff coverage was bad. REALLY BAD. This may have cost us the game. This will be a main focus on the game film and in practices. Kill wants his ST to be superior.
Players that shined were #25 DB Tracey Wilson who helped with the blocked punt and made a key tackle on ST. #28 RB Chad Spann was credited with blocking the punt, but I could have sworn that it was #25 Wilson. Can somebody help me out here?
Overall, I was very impressed with this team and we can learn a lot from this game. I am a lot more confident about next week's trip to Kalamazoo, which hopefully I will be attending.