Jan. 9, 2012
Box Score |
DeKalb, Ill. - Northern Illinois completed a season of comebacks with one final come-from-behind victory as the Huskies overcame a 13-0 deficit to defeat Arkansas State, 38-20, in the GoDaddy.com Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium Sunday night. NIU, the 2011 Mid-American Conference Champions, won its ninth straight game to complete its second consecutive 11-3 campaign. The Huskies snapped Arkansas State's nine-game winning streak as the Red Wolves finished the season 10-3.
"Our guys never flinched," said NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren. "It was a lot of fun. I am proud of the Huskies, the entire team, our fans and how we represented Northern Illinois. We started to run our plays better and stopped beating ourselves. The coaches called an aggressive game. Two scores is nothing for us."
Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish, who earned the game's Most Valuable Player Award after passing for 274 yards on 18-of-36 passes with two touchdowns, had to leave the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
In his absence, sophomore Jordan Lynch put the Huskies ahead for the first time by directing a seven-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. On the drive, Lynch hit Martel Moore with a 41-yard reception for one of his eight catches on the day before scoring himself on a three-yard touchdown run. Lynch's score and the ensuing PAT put the Huskies ahead to stay, 14-13.
NIU extended its lead to 21-13 just before halftime on a one-yard run by Jamal Womble on fourth down with no time left on the clock. Womble's score came after Arkansas State twice gave NIU the ball back in the final minutes of the half, first on a muffed punt that was recovered by Dominique Ware and second on a roughing the punter call.
"We stopped beating ourselves and started playing our game," NIU coach Dave Doeren said. "Our coaches called an aggressive game and we made a couple of plays that swung the momentum. Two scores is nothing for us. We've been down way more than that this year."
In addition to Harnish's Most Valuable Player Award, Moore was named the game's Offensive MVP while redshirt freshman Dechane Durante, whose 36-yard interception return and touchdown with 8:19 to play sealed the NIU win, was the Defensive MVP. Punter Ryan Neir pinned ASU inside its 20 yard line four times on his eight punts and just one of his punts was returned. He was the Special Teams MVP.
Moore's 224 receiving yards ranks as the third-highest single game total in NIU history. He caught a 43-yard touchdown pass on a double reverse early in the third quarter to give the Huskies a 28-13 lead. His score came after the teams traded interceptions to open the period.
NIU extended the lead to 31-13 early in the fourth quarter on Mathew Sims' 22-yard field goal before ASU's Taylor Stockemer caught a 16-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 11:12 remaining to end a string of 31 consecutive points by the Huskies. That catch pulled the Red Wolves within 11 points at 31-20 before Durante's INT completed the win.
The Northern Illinois defense, which forced five turnovers on the day, flexed its muscle early, holding ASU to Brian Davis field goals - of 32 and 36 yards - on its first two drives. The Wolves got into the end zone on its third possession, on a two-yard run by quarterback Ryan Aplin to finish a three-play, 41-yard drive, but would not see the end zone again until the fourth quarter.
NIU's first touchdown came on a nine-yard hook-up between Chandler Harnish and Perez Ashford in the final minute of the first quarter.
Harnish finished the season 3,216 passing yards on 237-of-384 completions with six interceptions and 28 touchdowns, 1,379 rushing yards on 194 carries and 11 touchdowns on the ground. He totaled 4,595 yards and was responsible for 39 scores.
The game provided a fitting end for 19 NIU seniors, who finished as the most successful senior class in school history with 35 wins and four consecutive bowl games. NIU won back-to-back bowl games for the first time since taking the 1983 California Bowl and 2004 Silicon Valley Classic.
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