Oct. 11, 2008
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DeKALB - Me'co Brown rushed for a career-high 123 yards and Josh Allen batted down a potential game-winning fourth-down touchdown pass, as the Northern Illinois football team held on to take a 17-13 victory over Miami (OH), Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
With the win, the Huskies improve to 3-3 overall, and 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference, surpassing 2007 totals in both categories.
"More than anything, my players showed a tremendous amount of courage on the field today," first-year head coach Jerry Kill said. "Football teams need hard-fought close wins like ours today. These types of games are hard to win, but if you do, they can certainly boost team morale."
Down four points with 7:17 remaining, the Redhawks (1-5, 0-2 MAC) drove 57 yards to the NIU 12, helped by a pass interference call on a fourth-and-two that kept the drive alive. An incomplete pass followed by an Alex Kube (Cary, Ill./Cary-Grove) tackle-for-loss put the Redhawks at the Northern Illinois 15-yard line facing third down.
Miami quarterback Dan Raudabaugh threw a strike for Chris Givens in the endzone that was broken up by Melvin Rice, bringing up fourth down. Allen (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago) made it back-to-back pass break-ups on the next play to end the Redhawk drive, and give the Huskies their second conference win of the season.
"It felt great, so relieving," Allen said of the deflection. "It wasn't just me making that last play, it was a total defensive effort from the pass rush to the secondary."
While the NIU defense finished the game, Brown's (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) 7.7 yards per carry average carried the Huskies through much of it. Brown's longest effort of the day came on a 36-yard burst in the third quarter that helped set-up a two-yard touchdown effort from Chad Spann (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central). The score gave the Huskies a 17-13 lead with 2:18 left in the third, an advantage they held for the win.
The Huskie defense put forth more than late game heroics, allowing the Redhawks just six points on two field goals. NIU held an opponent to 13 points or less for the fourth straight game.
Miami scored their first points and only touchdown of the game on a 63-yard punt return by Eugene Harris with 4:49 left in the second quarter. The points were the first of 13-straight for the Redhawks, capped by a 35-yard field goal from Nathan Parseghian that put Northern Illinois in a 13-10 hole with 4:53 remaining in the third.
Northern Illinois started redshirt freshman DeMarcus Grady (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids) at quarterback. Grady completed 7-of-12 passes for 63 yards. He threw Northern Illinois' first touchdown of the game, a three-yard strike to Landon Cox (Calumet City, Ill./Thornton Fractional North) that put the Huskies up 10-0 early in the second quarter. Grady also rushed for 43 yards, including a career-long 28-yard rush that precluded Mike Salerno's (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg/Winona State) field goal.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell) checked in under center after Grady left in the second quarter with an injury. Harnish, who started the Huskies' first two games of the season before getting hurt at Western Michigan, returned after missing three games to go 4-for-9 passing for 48 yards.
"Chandler Harnish set a good example for the team as he exhibited a great deal of courage to battle through his [foot] injury and lead the offense," Kill said.
Harnishs' gutsy performance personified the outing for the entire team, which won its first game of the season decided by four points or fewer.
"We are learning to finish games and win," Harnish said. "If we keep doing that, the sky is the limit for this team."
Northern Illinois plays its second of three straight home games next Saturday, Oct. 18 at 3 p.m. when it plays host to MAC West foe Toledo, a 13-10 upset winner over Michigan on Saturday. Kickoff for NIU's 103rd Homecoming game is 3 p.m.
-- NIU --
For more information, contact Donna Turner, NIU Athletics Media Relations, 815-753-9513 or 815-793-5474.