Bowl Season

Northern Illinois pounds Fresno State 40-17.
3 Stars
1. Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish- The dual threat junior was 17 for 26 for 300 yards through the air and ran for 72 yards and 2 of his 3 total touchdowns.
2. Northern Illinois DE Jake Coffman- The former Marine had a Humanitarian Bowl record 3 sacks and harassed Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn all night long.
3. Northern Illinois RB Chad Spann- The MAC player of the year had 95 yards on 15 carries and 2 touchdowns.

Big win for the Huskies. Interim coach Tom Matukewicz did an excellent job.


MAC vs. WAC                                        Boise, Idaho
                                       Bronco Stadium
                                     Dec. 18
                                     5:30 p.m.

Humanitarian Bowl Preview
The Fresno State offense has been very solid this year, averaging 30 points per game. The Bulldogs go through the 13th leading rusher in the nation, sophomore Robbie Rouse. He has averaged 109.7 yards per game. The Bulldogs will look to establish the running game to set of the play-action passing game of 6th year senior QB Ryan Colburn. It's safe to say he knows the offense. When he drops back, his favorite target is Jamel Hamler. He has 47 receptions for 725 yards on the season. Look for him to have a big game.
Linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz takes over as interim coach after the departure of head coach Jerry Kill for Minnesota. Whether this will affect affect the team remains to be seen. The Huskies had the 7th best rushing attack in the country, thanks mostly to Chad Spann. The undersized senior has 20 touchdowns on the year. I expect him to find the endzone a few times on Saturday. The Huskies also love to run with dual threat QB, first team all-MAC QB Chandler Harnish. He has passed for 2230 yards and ran for another 764. His top target is Willie Clark, who has 514 receiving yards. The Husky line has played well with 2 first team all-MAC selections, LT Trevor Olsen and C Scott Wedige.

The defense of Northern Illinois has been stout all year, giving up under 20 points per game in the run-heavy MAC. Upfront, DE's Sean Progar and Jake Coffman will try to wreak havoc on Colburn. The linebackers are solid, but look for CB Chris Smith to do what he can do shut down Jamel Hamler. A wildcard is safety Tracy Williams, who has missed most of the season, but if he plays he will make plays.
The Fresno State defense improved from last year, but still wasn't great. However, the Bulldogs will give Harnish trouble DE Chris Carter, who has 11 sacks on the season. He is the WAC defensive player of the year. The Bulldogs need to be careful they don't overstack the box to stop the NIU rushing game.

The pick: I like Northern Illinois to win this game. They will definitely be up for the game, as most teams are after a coaching change. I am really looking forward to seeing the duo of QB Chandler Harnish and RB Chad Spann.
This pick has been made by and therefore will be correct.
 But if you disagree or agree with me send and email to saying who you think will win and why and I'll post it....

Bryant-Jon Anteola was kind enough to give his insights on the Fresno State Bulldogs.

BS: Pat Hill is known for playing a tough schedule. This year's team went 2-1 against "Big-6 conference" teams. How are the Bulldogs able to compete against these schools year in, year out?
Bryant-Jon Anteola: Fresno State prides itself on playing a tough nonconference schedule and going after teams from Bowl Championship Series conferences. To them, it's like the BCS system and BCS teams are the enemy. Fresno State always gets up to play BCS programs. That's probably what sticks out most about this season -- Fresno State began and ended the regular season with wins against BCS teams (Cincinnati then Illinois). And they do it not so much on better execution or talent or athletes -- just drive and motivation. Fresno State and its fans always look forward to playing BCS teams.
BS: The offense had a pretty good year. Please comment on the balanced attack including QB Ryan Colburn and RB Robbie Rouse.
Bryant-Jon Anteola: Fresno State's offense has had its moments of good and bad moments. It really hasn't been able to put together four quarters of high execution or four quarters of a balanced attack. Yet, the Bulldogs averaged 30 points for the season (tied for 45th in the country) much because, when they were on, they were really good. Ryan Colburn is nearing the end of a six-year tenure at Fresno State (grayshirted in 2005) so he's well-versed in the Bulldogs' playbook and what the coaches want him to do. Robbie Rouse ranks 13th in the country with an average of 109.7 rushing yards per game. Fresno State is at its best when the running game is working and the Bulldogs are able to pass down field with deceptive play-action passing. When one element has struggled, though, so has the other phase. The offensive line and receiving corps. also has been dinged up for much of the year with new players seeming to shuffle in and out of the lineup on a near weekly basis. So that's hindered Fresno State's progression. And once the coaching staff becomes concerned about the Bulldogs' execution at practice, particularly when having to rely on younger players, Fresno State's playcalling becomes super conservative, which upsets local fans at times. There's a chance that Rouse might not be able to play in the Humanitarian Bowl, though he says he'll be good to go. Rouse has been nursing a broken rib, in addition to a broken left hand that requires him to play with a cast on.

BS: The defense did struggle, but improved from last year's unit. What accounted for the improvement and who are some players to watch?
Bryant-Jon Anteola: Fresno State's defense improved because the Bulldogs were so bad by their 2009 showing. So ... No. 1: Fresno State had no place to go but up. And No. 2: The Bulldogs were driven to improve. No. 3: This season, the Bulldogs were in their second year under defensive play-caller Randy Stewart and had a better understanding of their assignments and responsibilities. Defensive end Chris Carter alone 11 sacks, which is the same amount Fresno State had as an entire team in 2009. Carter played last year with a club on his hand but was fully healthy this time. And his performance made everyone else around him better and earned the senior the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Bryant-Jon Anteola: The player who I see having a great game is receiver Jamel Hamler. He's been Colburn's favorite target all season, averaging a team-best 65.9 receiving yards on 47 catches. He's the Bulldogs possession receiver and go-to target on tough downs. With Rouse's injury situation up in the air and Colburn prone to turnovers, Hamler becomes Fresno State's most likely candidate to end team MVP honors at the H-Bowl if things go right for the Bulldogs.

Thanks a lot to Bryant-Jon Anteola, of the Fresno Bee.

Lindsey Willhite, of The Daily Herald, was nice enough to answer some questions about the Huskies.

BS: The head coach, Jerry Kill, and the offensive and defensive coordinator are all gone. How will the Huskies be able to cope with these losses and the recent mayhem?

Lindsey Willhite: I don't think the coaching departures will affect whether NIU wins or loses the Humanitarian Bowl. Yes, there was some shock and disappointment after Kill's decision to move to Minnesota. But interim coach Tom Matukewicz and the rest of the coaches have been with the team throughout the year. They know the schemes. They have the relationships and the trust. It's kind of a last hurrah for this group. Between that and the pain of the MAC title loss, the Huskies are motivated to play.

BS: The offense is certainly based on the rushing attack, ranked 7th in the nation. Talk about the play of the offense including dual threat QB Chandler Harnish and standout RB Chad Spann.

Lindsey Willhite :Spann was the MAC's Most Valuable Player as the undersized but relentless senior piled up 1,293 yards and 20 TDs this year. Miami decided to sell out to stop him in the MAC title game and snapped his streak of 11 consecutive games with at least 1 TD. Harnish, the first-team all-MAC quarterback is the prototypical dual-threat QB who provides a nice counterpoint to Spann. When Miami stacked the box, Harnish threw several deep balls to take advantage. The Huskies also boast two linemen who were first-team all-MAC (junior LT Trevor Olson and junior C Scott Wedige) and one second-team player (RG Joe Pawlak).

BS: The defense is ranked 16th overall in the country. What are the keys to success against Fresno State and who are the top contributers?

Lindsey Willhite: The Huskies love to keep fresh linemen on the field, so there's a reason nobody piled up huge stats this season. Defensive ends Sean Progar and Jake Coffman are consummate pass rushers, but their defensive tackles get good push as well. The linebackers are solid, though there are no superstars, and cornerback Chris Smith is the best of a solid secondary. Actually, safety Tracy Wilson is the defense's best player, but he missed most of 8 games. If he's ready to go, that gives NIU another terrific playmaker in the back half.

Illinois, which NIU faced in Week 3, established the running game against Fresno State in the Bulldogs' most recent game. Look for the Huskies to try the same.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Lindsey Willhite: With basically one week's worth of practice time to prep for the Humanitarian Bowl, there hasn't been time to reinvent the wheel. There's not going to be somebody who comes out of nowhere to be NIU's star. That having been said, Harnish and junior WR Willie Clark hooked up for 3 TDs in the last two games. They should make Fresno State pay if the Bulldogs decide to stop the running game at all costs.

Thanks a lot to Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald.

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