Oct. 3, 2009
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DEKALB, Ill. - Running back Chad Spann rushed for a career-high 132 yards and three touchdowns, and the Huskie defense forced four turnovers, leading to NIU's (3-2, 1-0 MAC) convincing 38-3 win over Mid-American Conference West Division rival Western Michigan (2-3, 1-1 MAC) at Huskie Stadium Saturday afternoon as Northern Illinois celebrated its 103rd Homecoming in style.
The win broke a three-game losing streak to Western Michigan, dating back to the 2006 season. Me'co Brown added 92 rushing yards on 15 carries, leading to the Huskies' 255 yards on the ground. NIU racked up 16 first downs in the running game, and carried the ball 50 times - WMU recorded just 23 rushes on the game.
NIU's defense intercepted All-MAC quarterback Tim Hiller three times, and forced three more fumbles, recovering one. Defensive end Jake Coffman's pick on the first play of the fourth quarter was returned 79 yards for a Huskie touchdown.
"I appreciate that the kids played hard today," said NIU head coach Jerry Kill. "I am all about playing hard football and being ready to play. Today we stopped them from running the ball, and we were able to run the ball, and that was the difference in the game. We knew they were going to throw the ball, and we had the opportunity to stop them from doing that.
"We tackled well and that allowed us to force turnovers. We got back to the fundamentals of the game. The defensive staff did a great job coaching the kids during the week, and on defense, they did what it takes to win."
NIU struck first, capitalizing on a nine-play drive that occupied 4:29. Spann carried the ball five times during the possession, including a 15-yard scamper on first-and-10 that advanced the ball near midfield, to the NIU 49-yard line. The Huskies scored two plays later, when Harnish completed a 33-yard touchdown strike to redshirt sophomore Nathan Palmer.
Western Michigan took over with 10:31 remaining in the opening quarter, and strung together a 16-play, 64-yard drive. The Broncos came up empty however, gaining just two yards on a fourth-and-seven attempt from the NIU 18-yard line. The Huskies took over on downs at the 3:13 mark of the first quarter.
After forcing NIU into a three-and-out, WMU re-claimed possession with 1:35 remaining in the opening stanza. Eight plays later, the Broncos got on the board, with John Potter converting a 40-yard field goal with 14:13 remaining in the first half. Hiller completed three passes in the drive, but NIU's defense forced incompletions on both second-and third-down to force the field goal attempt.
Northern Illinois responded with a 12-play, 69-yard scoring drive, resulting in a one-yard touchdown run (6:20) by Chad Spann, who ran the ball four-consecutive times to lead to the touchdown. Brown also had four carries during the drive.
NIU re-gained possession with 2:23 left in the second quarter, when Kiaree Daniels picked off Hiller's pass intended for wide receiver Ansel Ponder. The turnover negated 29 yards of offense by the Broncos on that drive.
The Huskies completed the first half's scoring by stringing together a seven-play, 56-yard drive on the ensuing possession. Spann's 20-yard run on fourth-and-one capped off the drive, in which NIU ran the ball six times.
The half ended with NIU clinging to a commanding 21-3 lead. The Huskies controlled the running game and the clock, gaining 153 yards on the ground, and holding the ball for more than 17 minutes (17:14). Brown and Spann combined for 137 first-half rushing yards.
The Huskies began the second half by forcing another turnover, when Patrick George picked off Hiller's first pass attempt of the stanza, with 14:47 remaining in the third quarter. NIU responded with a quick three-play, 12-yard scoring drive, capped off by Spann's third rushing touchdown of the game to give NIU a 28-3 lead.
NIU's lead was extended to 31-3 with 3:59 remaining in the third quarter, when kicker Mike Salerno capped off a 10-play, 76-yard drive with a 22-yard field goal. The Huskies started the drive on the NIU 19, after forcing the Broncos into a three-and-out. NIU racked up 54 more rushing yards in the quarter, and took the 28-point lead into the fourth stanza.
Coffman gave NIU a 38-3 advantage just 13 seconds into the fourth quarter, intercepting Hiller's pass and returning it 79 yards for a touchdown; it was the sixth-longest interception return for a score in school history.
The Huskies will be idle next Saturday, before traveling to Toledo on Oct. 17. The Rockets outlasted Ball State Saturday, 37-30.
-- NIU --
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