Nov. 20, 2010
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MUNCIE, Ind. - While winning its eighth straight game and clinching the Mid-American Conference West Division title Saturday at Ball State, the Northern Illinois Huskies excelled on offense, defense and special teams en route to a 59-21 victory.
The win improved the Huskies record to 9-2 on the year, 7-0 in the MAC, and secured NIU's spot in the 2010 Marathon Mid-American Conference Championship game as the MAC West Champions. NIU will play in the MAC Championship game for the first time since 2005 and for the second time in school history on Dec. 3, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. Ball State finished the 2010 campaign 4-8, 3-5 in the MAC.
Complete information on MAC Championship travel and tickets, including a link to purchase tickets online, is available at www.NIUHuskies.com.
Northern Illinois' eight-game winning streak is the Huskies' longest as a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision program and the school's longest win streak since 1965, when Coach Howard Fletcher's NIU team posted a perfect 9-0 regular season mark. NIU's last loss came on Sept. 18, 2010 at Illinois.
"It's good to get it done," said NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill, whose list of milestone achievements at Northern Illinois continue to grow. "We were able to go on the road and get the job done, accomplish what we needed to do to get to Detroit. We'll enjoy the win but we have to turn around and play again on Friday."
Saturday at Ball State, it was the Northern Illinois' special teams time to shine as the Huskies blocked three punts on the day, setting a new school record for punts blocked in a game and giving NIU six blocked punts on the season, also a school record. Jimmie Ward, who has blocked three punts on the season, this time scooped up Jordan Delegal's block and ran 15 yards for the Huskies' second score. Delegal blocked a second punt in the third quarter while Ricky Crider had a partial block in the game.
"Special teams were a big part of the game," Kill said. "We have some guys there that have the ability to do some things."
Offensively, Huskie quarterback Chandler Harnish completed his first seven passes of the game and hooked up with fellow Indiana native Nathan Palmer on touchdown passes of 37 and 47 yards in the first 20 minutes of the game to give NIU an early lead. Harnish finished with 247 yards on 15-of-22 passing with two touchdowns in another efficient performance for the Huskie junior.
Indianapolis native Chad Spann scored three rushing touchdowns for the second straight week and has 18 rushing scores this season. He passed NIU great and current Atlanta Falcon Michael Turner for second place on the NIU career rushing touchdowns list. He scored on runs of two, seven and 12 yards. His second score came just before halftime and gave Northern Illinois an insurmountable 35-7 lead.
On defense, the Huskies held Ball State to just 268 yards on 55 plays and the Cardinals converted just two of their 10 third-down tries. NIU forced Ball State to punt eight times and gained only 113 yards on the ground. In addition, NIU linebacker Tyrone Clark picked off his fourth pass of the season and returned it 16 yards for a score in the fourth quarter.
"I am proud of them," Kill said of his 2010 team. "Three years ago, this senior class went 2-10 and it would be great to finish the regular season and turn that around. We haven't finished yet. That's been our motto all year long. "
The Huskies close out the regular season next Friday, Nov. 26 at Eastern Michigan. Kickoff from Rynearson Stadium is set for 11 a.m. (Central). The Huskies will take on either Ohio or Miami (Ohio) in Detroit on Dec. 3.
-- NIU -