FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman has a unique perspective on tonight’s matchup because of his history at Northern Illinois.

FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman has a unique perspective on tonight’s matchup because of his history at Northern Illinois.


Arkansas’ offensive line coach had two stints at the school, working on staff in 1994-95 and 2003-06. He was there on the sideline in 2003, when Northern Illinois opened the season by knocking off 15th-ranked Maryland. The Huskies repeated the feat three weeks later, upsetting 21st-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.


So Pittman knows what type of challenge the Razorbacks face.


"I know about the kids they have at Northern Illinois," Pittman said. ‘They’re tough, they’re smart, they’re well coached and they believe they can come in here and win. So we’ll have a fight on our hands for sure."


Arkansas, which is one week removed from a breakthrough performance under coach Bret Bielema, will try to steer clear of a setback in its follow-up against Northern Illinois (3-0) in Razorback Stadium at 6 p.m. The Razorbacks (2-1) enter the game loaded with confidence after dominant wins against both Nicholls State and Texas Tech, but are expecting a bigger challenge from the Huskies.


NIU’s credentials are solid. The Huskies played in a BCS game two years ago. They’ve won 49 games over the past four seasons, putting together a victory total that ranks second to only Oregon among Football Bowl Subdivision teams. They’ve also won a remarkable 17 straight on the road during that stretch.


Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers said NIU has Arkansas’ attention.


But the Razorbacks have no plans to take a step back after two straight wins.


"I guess streaks are made to be broken," Flowers said. "They’re coming in, I’m pretty sure they’re confident. … It’s our house. So we’re trying to protect it."


Arkansas’ play has backed up the confident talk the past two weeks.


The Razorbacks scored 122 points, which is the most in back-to-back games since the 1928 season. The run game has done much of the damage, rolling to 933 yards and 13 touchdowns during the two-game stretch. But Arkansas also has collected some confidence on defense after struggling in the opener at Auburn.


Both units will be tested by NIU. Arkansas may rank second in the nation in rushing yards a game (362), but the Huskies have only allowed 81.


"They have very few fleas schematically in what they do," Arkansas defensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. "They understand who they are. They understand their defensive scheme and take away things before you think about getting to them."


NIU has replaced quarterback Jordan Lynch, a 2013 Heisman Trophy candidate, with senior Drew Hare. It hasn’t slowed down a group averaging 550.7 yards.


The run game remains the Huskies’ strength, setting up a potent play-action passing attack. NIU ranks seventh in the NCAA in rushing yards (325.3 a game) and is averaging an eye-opening 67 rushing attempts each week.


So Arkansas has prepared for an offensive philosophy that differs from Texas Tech.


"If they run it 60 times a game we’re going to have to stop it 60 times," Arkansas defensive end JaMichael Winston said.


Tonight’s game will be just the second time the programs have met. Pittman was part of the NIU staff in the first meeting, which Arkansas won 30-27 behind a late touchdown run from current tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr.


The Huskies are 1-9 against SEC opponents. But the program will celebrate an anniversary of its lone win today, beating Alabama on Sept. 20, 2013.


NIU’s current group is looking forward to the chance to add another one as they take their first swing at an SEC program since a 13-9 loss at Tennessee in 2008.


"I want to see the SEC atmosphere," NIU running back Cameron Stingily said. "We’ve seen the Big Ten, the ACC. This is our first SEC game and I’m really excited for it."


It’s not the first time NIU has faced a Bielema-coached team.


The Huskies are 0-2, losing to Wisconsin in 2009 (28-20) and 2011 (49-7). NIU coach Rod Carey said the Razorbacks have looked similar to Bielema’s Badgers.


"He’s a super successful head coach and he has coached in a lot of football games," Carey said. "I think he got his team to two or three Rose Bowls. I know he didn’t coach in the last one but he coached in two of them and so he know what he wants his team to look like. This team from a 10,000-foot view looks like that."


Bielema’s current team is trying to win its third straight for the first time since last season, when the Razorbacks opened the year with consecutive wins.


It took Arkansas nearly a year to enjoy another win, but has shown plenty of promise with its performance the past two weeks. How will they handle success?


Bielema doesn’t believe it will be an issue as his team digs in for NIU.


"You respect all of your opponents and you fear none," Bielema said. "We take a lot of pride as coaches in making sure that our players follow the same demeanor. You have to prepare the same every week to get the same results."


After losing a school-record 10 straight games, Arkansas has enjoyed a breakthrough under Bielema by winning two straight games.


The Razorbacks don’t see the success ending at home against NIU.


"I think we’re all enjoying the feeling of winning again, and we’re not ready for that feeling to go away any time soon," Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said. "So, we plan on continuing this thing we’ve got going, this roll we’ve got going."