Huskies Fall to Toledo, 20-19

GO HUSKIES Linebacker Cory Hanson made his third interception of the game to set up the Huskies' fourth-quarter touchdown.
Linebacker Cory Hanson made his third interception of the game to set up the Huskies' fourth-quarter touchdown.

Oct. 17, 2009

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TOLEDO, Ohio - Northern Illinois' Mike Salerno's 42-yard field goal attempt with 37 seconds on the clock was blocked by Toledo's Barry Church, allowing the Rockets to claim a 20-19 Mid-American Conference victory over the Huskies at the Glass Bowl Saturday.

Salerno's attempt came after a 10-play, 50-yard drive by the Huskies beginning at the 2:43 mark of the fourth period. NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish took NIU from its own 25 to the Toledo 25, including a big 21-yard completion to freshman Perez Ashford on fourth and 13. After spiking the ball on first down, Harnish hit Landon Cox, who had six catches for 70 yards on the night, on a 28-yard play to the Toledo 29.

Northern Illinois (3-3, 1-1 MAC) scored as many touchdowns as the Rockets in the game - three - but Salerno's first extra point attempt of the game was blocked, and Harnish was stopped inches from the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt after the Huskies' third score.

"We didn't execute," said NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill. "We got an extra point blocked, we got a field goal blocked and they made plays. We were fortunate to be in the game. You can't win a game on the road in the MAC doing what we did tonight."

Northern Illinois fell behind 14-0 for the first time this season as Toledo (4-3, 1-1) put up a pair of first half touchdowns. The Rockets got on the board first on a 17-yard touchdown rush by DaJuane Collins with 44 seconds left in the first quarter. The score occurred one play after NIU was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, and was set up by Eric Page's 41-yard punt return as Toledo began the drive on the Huskie 32-yard line.

Collins ran for 139 yards on 16 carries and two scores on the night, including a 69-yard run, and Toledo freshman receiver Eric Page caught 10 passes for 127 yards. Rockets' freshman quarterback Austin Dantin, making his first start in relief of injured senior Aaron Opelt, completed 17-of-24 passes for 202 yards and a score before leaving the game with an injury in the fourth quarter.

UT's second touchdown - on a 26-yard pass from Dantin to Tim Cortazzo with 6:28 left in the first half - completed a nine-play, 99-yard drive.

The Huskies answered with a 10-play, 76-yard march that included completions of 29 and 18 yards from Harnish to Marcus Lewis and Cox, respectively. Me'co Brown, who led NIU with 22 rushes for 94 yards on the night, scored on a one-yard run. After Salerno's extra point was blocked for the first time in his career, Toledo held a 14-6 halftime lead.

Northern Illinois cut the lead to one on the first possession of the second half as Harnish marched NIU 72 yards on 13 plays for the score. His one-yard sneak and Salerno's subsequent PAT left the Huskies trailing by one, 14-13 with 8:17 remaining in the third period.

The rest of the third period was scoreless. NIU recovered its second fumble of the game, but penalties stymied the offense and forced NIU to punt. After Harnish threw just his second interception of the season, the Northern Illinois defense responded with a pickoff of its own as Cory Hanson grabbed a Dantin pass at the Toledo 11. Two plays later, Harnish dove in for his second score of the game. His two-point rushing try failed, but Northern Illinois held its first lead of the game, 19-14, with 13:37 left in the game.

Toledo answered on its next drive, despite losing Dantin to injury. Third team quarterback Alex Pettee made the big play of the drive on a beautiful 21-yard sideline completion to Page that took the ball to the NIU 14, before handing the ball off to Collins three straight times, with the last resulting in a four-yard run. Toledo's two-point try was no good.

The Huskies defense held Toledo's high-powered offense below its season averages for both passing and total yards, NIU converted more third downs than the Rockets and Northern Illinois won the turnover battle, 3-1. Northern Illinois compiled nine tackles for loss and two sacks in the game and Brandon Bice forced a pair of fumbles. Hanson's interception was his team-leading third of the season

"It's tough to win on the road in the MAC," Kill said. "We had opportunities and couldn't take advantage of them. We didn't hit on all cylinders offensively, and Toledo did some things defensively. We couldn't get in a rhythm. On defense, once we settled down, we played pretty well and slowed them down."

Northern Illinois makes its second straight MAC road trip next Saturday as they visit Miami (Ohio) in Oxford for a 1 p.m. (Central) game. Toledo plays host to Temple in the Glass Bowl.

-- NIU --

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