The Commodores are expecting the feisty NIU

Nashville, Tennessee – When the Power Five programs put up non-conference schedules years in advance, they rarely include two games on the road against Group Five competitors in one season. Vanderbilt (2-1) will head to Northern Illinois (1-1) this weekend hoping to top his 2021 win total but face an experienced team that won the Mid-America Conference last fall.

NIU quarterback Rocky Lombardi And two other starters – Edge Defender Green May Way and the gambler Tom Foley – All converted from Power Five programs. Lombardi started nine games at Michigan State from 2017 to 2020 and is considered one of the best quarterbacks in MAC.

Vanderbilt coach Clark Leah The Huskies, who beat Georgia Tech on the road last season, said they won’t be looking out of place on Saturday.

“They’re not going to pull out somehow when we show up,” Leah said Thursday. “If anything, I would expect them to be ready and motivated to defend their ground and have the opportunity. They are not worried about the helmet. They are worried about playing their game. It is a confident program and a confident team.”

The Huskys struggled against eastern Illinois opponent FCS in the first week, holding on to a 34-27 win. Then they came back from a 24-7 deficit in Tulsa last weekend, holding their lead late in the fourth quarter and losing 38-35 on a touchdown by the Golden Hurricane with less than a minute left.

NIU has run the ball on 57% of its plays this season, but only by 4.4 yards per carry. Ontario Brown And the Harrison Wiley Lead a rushing Husky attack, which Lombardy can use to beat the stars on a massive scale Cole Tuckerwho has already made 11 receptions for 190 yards and one touchdown.

“They will try to have a physical match against us,” Leah said. “We have to not only match that, but we have to be able to dictate the conditions there. Defensively, they cause twists and create chaos. We have to be able to have the ball, we have to be able to score the touchdown. That means we turn on a third touchdown and we practice safety. Great for the ball.”

Commodore sticks to Bright

Mike Wright He’ll start at quarterback after a bad outing against Wake Forest last weekend, and Leah indicated on Tuesday that he didn’t want to put in a real freshman. AJ Swan In-game for competitive shots if possible.

“I think it’s hard to play two quarterbacks,” Leah He said. “I don’t think that’s a formula that we want to spread as a strategy. I don’t think that’s the best thing to do. You want the players in the game to be able to play through mistakes and be able to find the rhythm. For me, it’s better to have a commitment to One person does it.”

OL alignment in the air

Pass protection has been Vanderbilt’s biggest single question mark over their upcoming attack this season, but Doris has only allowed two shorts in three games. While the heavy RPO scheme helps keep the Commodore’s interventions out of the way to protect the pass on straight back, left-hand interference Gunnar Hansen and the center Xavier Castillo However, it also rated well pass blockers according to Pro Football Focus.

Castillo will return to guard as soon as the position begins Julian Hernandez Fully back from an undisclosed injury. Lea said Tuesday that he believes Hernandez will be available “in some form” against the NIU. However, it is not clear what exactly he could contribute. offensive line coach AJ Blazek He moved players during matches and could choose to play Castillo at the left goalkeeper instead of the right when Hernandez returns.

“Obviously, with Julian back, you get the flexibility to move X,” Leah said. I think doing that requires confidence in Julian’s ability to keep going through the match. But I think Coach Blazek did a great job rotating these guys overall, and so he’s constantly looking at how to get the top five on the field. For Xavier, it’s not hard to get back on guard. This is not a problem for him. It’s just a question of is Julian able to perform at a level that allows us to unlock X? “

Castillo played a high school interventionist and last year’s guard as a real freshman. He started picking up the ball during fall camp and said he was comfortable in the position.

Overall, Castillo attributed the offensive line’s improved playing style to having more time on the field.

“We understand more from football,” Castillo said. “This comes with age and experience.”

coach room

Defensive Navigation Men Davion Davis And the Brayden Pabst I stayed out with injuries, but Leah confirmed on Thursday that a defensive intervention is a sophomore Devin Lee You passed training this week and will be playing against NIU. Lee comes back from a lower body injury he sustained during a spring ball.

“Devin’s going to be in some sort of load management because he’s working the way back,” Leah said. “But he had a good week and feels good about it.”