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Toledo's triple option will test NIU's defense on Tuesday night

Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren (right) receives congratulations from fifth-year senior quarterback Chandler Harnish after the Huskies defeated Army 42-26 Saturday in Doeren's NIU debut. | Scott Walstrom photo, NIU Media Services

TOLEDO, Ohio – Quarterback Chandler Harnish and Northern Illinois’ high-powered offense can only take the Huskies so far.

Unless the defense improves, NIU (5-3, 3-1) has little chance of beating Toledo (5-3, 4-0) on Tuesday night at the Glass Bowl.

“We’ll be seeing two of the top-scoring teams in the Mid-American Conference,” Huskies coach Dave Doeren said.

The Huskies are averaging a MAC-high 38.5 points. The Rockets are averaging 36.5.

“Toledo is a very, very good football team at home and has been so for years,” Doeren said.

Especially against the Huskies, whom the Rockets have beaten 18 of the last 20 times at home.

Last year in DeKalb, the Huskies routed the Rockets 65-30 on their way to winning the West Division.

With a victory, the Huskies would share the West Division lead with Toledo.

Harnish will be the best player on the field. He ranks among the conference’s top 10 in passing, completing 135 of 215 passes for 1,697 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also has carried the ball 94 times for 738 yards and eight touchdowns.

But the Rockets are more balanced. Their two quarterbacks, Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens, have completed 165 of 251 passes for 1,959 yards and 16 touchdowns. Plus, running back Morgan Williams has rushed for 489 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Huskies’ defense will be hard-pressed to contain the triple option, which has given it fits all year.

NIU has given up 32.5 points a game, one of the worst averages in the MAC. Toledo has given up an average of 25.

“This week, there’s no third-down-package guys because it’s triple option for 70 straight plays,” Doeren said.