NIU finds no weak links in Florida St. defense

DeKALB – Northern Illinois’ football coaches always look for an opposing defensive player the Huskies can take advantage of.

The staff calls that player “Waldo.” However, NIU coach Rod Carey hasn’t found a “Waldo” on Florida State’s defensive unit.

“We always use the term ‘Where’s Waldo’ and find him on defense,” Carey said. “Let me tell you, Florida State doesn’t have a Waldo. They have a bunch of good football players.”

When Huskies coaches and players have talked about the Seminoles’ defense, adjectives like quick, physical and athletic have been used. It’s understandable, considering the group ranks second in the nation in total defense (253.8 yards a game) and seventh in scoring defense (15.1 points a game).

Seven players from the Florida State defense made the All-Atlantic Coast Conference team, three of them on the first team – defensive end Bjoern Werner, safety Lamarcus Joyner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

What the Huskies have done well all season is run, run and run. NIU will try to do the same thing New Year’s Day in the Orange Bowl. Running against Florida State defense, which gives up only 93 yards a game (fifth in the nation), will be NIU’s biggest challenge.

When NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch does drop back to pass, he’ll see a starting front four that averages 294 pounds. Lynch said his receivers will see a lot of third-down blitzing and man-to-man coverage on the outside.

“They [covered 1-on-1 against] a lot of teams,” Lynch said. “I can’t see why they wouldn’t do it to us.”

The biggest threat on the ‘Noles defense is Werner, the 6-4, 265-pound junior defensive end, who has terrorized offensive lines and quarterbacks all season. He’s tied for second in the nation in sacks, and has 18 tackles for loss.

Junior right tackle Matt Krempel will be the Huskie who gets to deal with Werner at Sun Life Stadium.

Since the regular season concluded, the accolades have piled up for Werner, as he’s been named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team Associated Press All-American.

After NIU starting left tackle Tyler Loos suffered a broken tibia during the final minutes of NIU’s win over Toledo Nov. 14, right tackle Ryan Brown took Loos’ spot for the Huskies’ contests against Eastern Michigan and Kent State, while Krempel took over at right tackle. Brown and Krempel had previously been rotating at the right tackle spot.

Krempel hasn’t gone up against a defensive end with the stats or accomplishments of Werner. When asked what opponent he’s faced who could even compare to Werner, Krempel mentioned Huskies defensive end Sean Progar, who Krempel matches up with in practice. Progar was third in the Mid-American Conference with 8.5 sacks this season.

“He’s given me great looks. He’s coached me up on how to beat his moves,” Krempel said. “He’s really helped me out. I think he’s a great look for [Werner].”

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