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NIU by the numbers: Huskies boast stout defense, anemic offense

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After rolling through an overmatched Hawaii defense in his first career start, BYU QB Zach Wilson and the rest of the Cougar offense will get a chance to prove themselves Saturday versus one of the toughest defenses on the schedule.

Northern Illinois is 4-3 thus far, but all three of their losses have come to Power 5 teams Iowa, Utah and Florida State. NIU trailed Utah 7-6 with under 5 minutes to go in the fourth quarter before a late pick 6 gave the Utes a 17-6 victory.

Defensive end Sutton Smith is a future NFL player and the leader of the Huskie defense. After recording 14 sacks last season, Smith is tied for 10th in the country this year with 7 sacks. BYU will have their hands full all day as they look for ways to contain Smith.

Here is how the rest of the NIU defense ranks through seven games.

  • Team Sacks: 30 (T-14th)
  • Fumbles recovered: 10 (2nd)
  • Takeaways per game: 2 per game (T-14th)
  • Tackles for loss per game: 7.7 (21st)
  • Scoring Defense: 23.3 ppg (T-46th)
  • 3rd down conversion defense: 40.2% (80th)
  • Red Zone Defense: 84% (T-71)


While the defense has been great for the Huskies, the offense has largely been dreadful. Starting QB Marcus Childers has started all seven games and has yet to crack 1,000 passing yards on the season. He does have 242 rushing yards on the season, including 169 in their last game versus Ohio. Running back Tre Harbison leads the team in rushing with 442 yards (4.9 ypc) and 3 touchdowns.

Here is how the the offense ranks so far.

  • Points per game: 18.9 (126th)
  • Passing yards per game: 135.6 (123rd)
  • Rushing yards per game: 160.1 (78th)
  • 3rd down conversion rate: 36.9% (90th)
  • Completion percentage: 55.3% (99th)
  • Red zone offense: 79.2% (T-100th)

BYU and Northern Illinois kickoff 1:30 MDT Saturday on ESPNU.