Northern Illinois Defeats Army in Season Opener 49-26



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Sept. 3, 2011


DEKALB, Ill.- Behind 509 yards of total offense and Chandler Harnish's five touchdowns through the air, the Northern Illinois Huskies defeated the Army Black Knights, 49-26 Saturday in the 2011 season opener for both schools at Huskie Stadium.

Head Coach Dave Doeren collected his first career victory at Northern Illinois in his first game at the helm as Northern Illinois won its season opener for the first time since 2003.

"It was a great game for both sides of the ball," Doeren said. "One side came in and did their job, and the other followed suit. It was a great testament to our team."

The Huskies got off to a fast start defensively, forcing the Black Knights to a three-and-out possession. On the ensuing punt, Jimmie Ward proverbially lit the Huskies cannon as he blocked Kolin Walk's punt, allowing Courtney Stephen to collect the loose ball and return it for a 16-yard touchdown return.

Two series later Army would answer the call, capitalizing on a Huskie fumble with a touchdown run on an option pitch from Trent Steelman to Trenton Turrentine. Kicker Alex Carlton missed the following point after touchdown attempt and kept NIU in the lead, 7-6.

Northern Illinois responded with touchdowns on its next four possessions, all of which had Harnish's stamp on them with three in the air and another on the ground. Northern Illinois led 35-6 at halftime and extended the margin to 49-6 at the end of the third quarter after Harnish hit Martel Moore in the corner of the end zone in his last series.

Army came back to score three fourth-quarter touchdowns against as the Huskies substituted liberally in the final stanza.

Doeren was very pleased with the way the team started the game and responded to Army's offense.

"You could not have asked for a better start to the game. With the blocked punt for a touchdown and the offense responding with four touchdowns after Army's score, it doesn't get any better that. You can't ask for much more from your team."

Harnish finished the contest with a career-high five touchdowns in the air, the most by an NIU quarterback since 2005, on 12-for-19 passing for 195 yards. His longest completion of the day was a 58-yard screen pass to junior college transfer Jamal Womble, who evaded a trio of Army defenders to reach the end zone.

The Huskies were also able to net 289 yards on the ground on 47 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. Jasmin Hopkins led the attack on 14 carries and 138 yards, including a long of 57 yards. The Stanley, N.C., native posted 82 yards in the first quarter on five carries.

Both Harnish and Hopkins credited the Huskies' senior-laden offensive line.

"The offensive line did a fantastic job tonight," Harnish said. "Army packed the box and they did a great job of establishing the line of scrimmage."

Despite surrendering 303 yards to a mutually proficient rushing team, the defense was able to account for a fumble recovery, an interception and seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 19 yards. Alan Baxter led the Huskies' effort with seven tackles, two-and-a-half for loss, while causing and recovering a key fumble.

The Huskies improve to 1-0, while Army falls to 0-1. Northern Illinois will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 10 for a contest at Kansas. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised by Fox College Sports.

-- NIU --



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