Oct. 31, 2009
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DEKALB, Ill. - Chad Spann refused to go down. For 28 yards he broke tackles, bounced off defenders, and fought his way into the end zone to give Northern Illinois the go-ahead score in a come-from-behind, 27-10 win over Akron Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
Spann's 28-yard score put the Northern Illinois on top 13-10 early in the fourth quarter. He followed that run on the ensuing Huskie drive with a two-yard score to put NIU ahead 20-10 with 7:59 left in the game. Spann finished the day with 21 carries for 127 yards, his second straight 100-yard rushing game.
"I'm glad to get the win," said NIU head coach Jerry Kill. "We were able to get back-to-back wins; the kids played a hard football game. We didn't turn the ball over; I've said all along we've got to stop the run and run the ball without turning it over. I'm proud of the kids, and we have to make a quick turnaround and get ready for Thursday."
Akron, which has lost six-straight games, did not go down without a fight. The Zips claimed a 10-6 lead with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter, when running back Andre Jones completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Alex Allen. NIU scored 21 unanswered points to provide the final scoring, including a seven-yard dash by Nathan Palmer with just 46 seconds remaining.
NIU started the rushing attack early, accumulating 125 first-half rushing yards. Spann led the way with 12 carries for 85 yards over the first two quarters. The ground attack led to a pair of first half scores. The Huskies got on the board first as senior Mike Salerno capped an eight play, 46 yard drive with a 22-yard field goal to give NIU a 3-0 lead. Salerno tacked on three more with a boot from 37 yards in the second quarter, putting the Huskies ahead, 6-0, at halftime.
Akron answered with field goal drive to open the third quarter. Completions of 21 and 20 yards by Patrick Nicely and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Northern Illinois keyed the drive.
After the Zips took the 10-6 lead, the Huskies turned back to the ground game, Spann in particular. He capped off a six-play, 47-yard drive with the hard-fought 28-yard scamper to re-claim the lead for NIU (13:35), followed by a two-yard run that ended a seven-play, 53-yard drive with 7:59 remaining.
Akron drove down into the NIU red zone with less than eight minutes remaining, but the drive was stalled after Brandon Bice sacked Akron quarterback Patrick Nicely, forcing a fumble that was recovered by NIU's Tracy Wilson. The Zips never threatened again, allowing the Huskies to tally the final score with less than one minute remaining.
Quarterback DeMarcus Grady, making his second-straight start for injured signal caller Chandler Harnish, completed 10-of-18 passes for 62 yards, and rushed for 109 yards on 20 carries - neither he, nor the Huskies committed a turnover in the game.
"We know DeMarcus can run the football," Kill said. "He checked a lot of things at the line of scrimmage, and I think a lot of people wouldn't do that as a young kid. He's been persistent and hard-working. We're just trying to utilize his talents as much as we can right now."
Nice finished 11-for-27 through the air for 124 yards, and was sacked three times. Jones reeled in six catches for 154 yards, with 80 of them coming on the Zips' lone scoring play in the third quarter.
NIU will host its first-of two-consecutive mid-week games at Huskie Stadium Thursday night, when Mid-American Conference West Division foe Eastern Michigan visits DeKalb - kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPNU.