The convenient fact has been brought up more than once this week.
“Coach, your team is the last Mid-American Conference school to beat Northern Illinois.” That was two years ago, in 2011, on homecoming in Mount Pleasant. CMU won, 48-41, en route to a 3-9 season.
On Saturday, the two schools meet again (3 p.m., ESPN3) at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, this time on a grander stage with more on the line. The Huskies come in ranked 23rd in the nation, the reward for a 6-0 start on the heels of crashing the BCS in January. CMU (3-4, 2-1 MAC) looking to make a statement.
“We can look at it and say we’re the only team in the MAC to beat them in three years,” Enos said this week. And they have, both the coaching staff and players, only to downplay it soon after.
“That and $2 gets us a cup of coffee. It doesn’t do anything for us this week.”
Said senior safety Avery Cunningham: “It’s something that was mentioned, but it doesn’t really mean anything now. They’re still the top-dogs in the MAC until somebody takes them out.”
The Huskies (2-0 MAC) come in perfect, but not without a rocky road. They have road wins over Big Ten opponents Iowa and Purdue, proving impressive in a blowout win in West Lafayette, but only beat 1-6 Akron by a touchdown last week. Last month, they survived a scare against FCS Eastern Illinois, falling behind 20-0 only to score 30 unanswered points and hold on for a 43-39 win in DeKalb.
“It’s football, it’s up and down,” Enos said. “Guys are 19, 20-years old, they’re going to play better one week over another. They’re very deep, got good skill everywhere. They really don’t have a lot of holes in them.
“Somebody asked me the other day what I thought of them. I said, ‘If they were in the Big Ten, they’d be 2-0 right now.’ They’re pretty good.”
Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Jordan Lynch is back for his senior season, having thrown for 215 yards passing and 144 yards and a touchdown rushing in NIU’s 55-24 win over CMU last season. Lynch is putting up numbers similar to last season, throwing for 1,333 yards at a 60 percent completion rate and 13 touchdowns, while running for 616 yards and four more touchdowns.
“We’ve got to give him different looks, try to keep him off-balanced, try and make him one-dimensional,” Enos said. “They’re a great running team, that’s what they’ve always wanted to do. That’s what good teams do and we’ve got to try and take him out of that get him off schedule.”
In terms of a gameplan, CMU might be better off throwing the ball. The Huskies are giving up more than 305 yards passing per game, last in the MAC, while allowing just 155 yards on the ground (third in league). Junior receiver Titus Davis is expected back, giving the Chippewas one more option outside.
“Anytime you hear about that, you feel like as receivers you can make big plays when a team is giving up so many yards in the pass,” said junior receiver Courtney Williams, who had the game-winning 22-yard touchdown catch last week. “We hope to keep that going.”
But Enos was quick to shoot down the Huskies’ blunders in the secondary, insisting that CMU will need to put forth a balanced effort to win.
“We’re better when we run the ball effectively, it makes everybody else better,” Enos said. “It makes our team better. We’re going to try and be persistent running the football, and then when we get our opportunities outside we’ve got to make plays.”
Contact Aaron McMann: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.