Nov. 29, 2011
2011 NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES FOOTBALL
2011 Marathon Mid-American Conference Championship Game
Ohio (9-3, 6-2) vs. Northern Illinois (9-3, 7-1)
December 2, 2011 | 6 p.m. (CT) | ESPN2
Detroit, Mich. | Ford Field | 65,000
PDF of Complete Release
HUSKIE FOOTBALL FACTS
2011 Record/MAC Record: 9-3/7-1
2010 Record: 11-3
MAC (Regular Season) Record/Finish: 8-0/1st, West Division
Head Coach: Dave Doeren
Record at NIU & Career Record: 9-3/First Year
Alma Mater/Year: Drake/1994
Basic Offense/Defense: Multiple/4-3
First Year of Football: 1899
All-Time Record: 521-463-51
Last Bowl Game: NIU 40, Fresno State 17
2010 uDrove Humanitarian Bowl; Boise, Idaho
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 47/25
Starters Returning: 11 (8 offense, 3 defense, 0 specialists)
Starters Lost: 13 (4 offense, 9 defense, 3 specialists)
NORTHERN ILLINOIS FACTS
Location: DeKalb, Illinois
Affiliation: NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision
Conference: Mid-American (West Division)
Colors: Cardinal and Black
Stadium: Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium
Surface/Capacity: FieldTurf /24,000
President (Alma Mater, Year): Dr. John Peters (John Carroll 67)
Assoc. VP/Athletic Director: Jeff Compher
Alma Mater, Year: James Madison '80
Ticket Information: 815-752-6800
2011 NIU SCHEDULE
2011 OU SCHEDULE
2011 Record/Conference Record: 9-3/6-2
2010 Record/Conference Record/Finish: 8-5/6-2 2nd East
Head Coach: Frank Solich
Alma Mater/Year: Nebraska '66
Record at Ohio/Year: 49-39/7th
Career Record/Year: 107-58/13th
Location: Athens, Ohio
Colors: Green & White
Stadium: Peden Stadium
President: Dr. Roderick J. McDavis
Athletic Director: Jim Schaus
Ticket Information: 800-575-2287
Athletics Website: www.ohiobobcats.com
FB Media Relations Contact: Tom Symonds
Phone: 740-593-1298 (O)
E-Mail Address: email@example.com
Overall: Series tied 9-9
In DeKalb: Northern Illinois leads 6-2
In Athens: Ohio leads 7-3
At Neutral Sites: First Game
In MAC Games: Northern Illinois leads 9-6
Streak: Ohio, 2
First Meeting: Ohio 28, NIU 12 (Nov. 23, 1968 in Athens)
Last Meeting: Ohio 38, NIU 31 (Nov. 21, 2009 in Athens)
NIU HEAD COACH Dave Doeren
Dave Doeren, a 16-year collegiate coaching veteran who helped take teams to eight bowl games and two national championship contests as an assistant, is the winningest first-year head coach in Northern Illinois history after leading the 2011 Huskies to a 9-3 record and a return trip to the Mid-American Conference Championship game. Doeren was named the 21st head football coach in NIU history on Dec. 13, 2010 after five seasons at the University of Wisconsin. After two seasons as the Badgers' co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator, he was named defensive coordinator in 2008. During Doeren's time at Wisconsin, the Badgers posted a 49-16 overall record and played in the Champs Sports Bowl (twice), Outback Bowl and Capital One Bowl. In 2010, UW posted an 11-2 record, won a share of the Big Ten title and played TCU in the 2011 Rose Bowl. Doeren's UW defenses were consistently ranked in the top 25 in the nation and while there he coached players like current National Football League linebackers Jonathan Casillas of the New Orleans Saints and DeAndre Levy of the Detroit Lions. Most recently, defensive end J.J. Watt was selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Doeren arrived at UW after four seasons (2002-05) at the University of Kansas. He was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for his first three seasons before being promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2005. Prior to his time at Kansas, Doeren coached the secondary at NCAA FCS power Montana for two seasons. Montana won the I-AA national championship in 2001 and went 28-3 with two conference titles in his time there. He started his college coaching career as an assistant at Drake from 1995-97 where he coached linebackers, before becoming defensive coordinator in 1997. A four-year letterwinner at Drake (1990-93), Doeren earned Academic All-America honors as a senior and graduated with a bachelor's degree in pre-medical biology and a master's in educational leadership. He and his wife, Sara, have three sons - Jacob, Luke and Connor.
Watch the MAC Championship Game on ESPN2
The Northern Illinois-Ohio game will air on ESPN2 as NIU will be featured on an ESPN network for the fifth consecutive game. Joe Tessitore will handle play-by-play duties with Rod Gilmore alongside as color analyst and Jeannine Edwards on the sideline.
Listen on the NIU Radio Network
The Northern Illinois Radio Network, presented by IMG College, will bring Huskie fans the MAC Championship game broadcast on these stations in 2011:
WLBK AM 1360 (DeKalb) - FLAGSHIP
WTJK ESPN 1380 AM (Janesville, WI-Rockford)
WJOL 1340 AM (Joliet)
WSCR670 AM The Score (Chicago)
The broadcast begins with the pregame show 30 minutes prior to kick off. Hall of Fame broadcaster Bill Baker is in his 32nd season as the play-by-play voice of the Huskies and is joined by Mark Lindo, in his 27th year as NIU's color analyst, and sixth-year sideline reporter Casey Kahler.
"NIU Weekly" Radio Show
Each week, join NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher, host Andy Garcia and Northern Illinois coaches for "NIU Weekly" on WSCR 670 AM The Score in Chicago. The 30-minute show features a weekly interview with head football coach Dave Doeren as well as interviews with other Huskie coaches and all the latest NIU Athletics news. The show airs every Saturday morning from 7:30-8 a.m.
Fans across the country can hear all NIU live radio broadcasts live on Huskies All-Access at www.NIUHuskies.com. All-Access subscribers pay just $6.95/month or $49.95/year to receive all NIU radio game and show broadcasts, as well as all home basketball games and gymnastics and wrestling meets. Subscribers also have access to Coach Doeren's weekly press conferences and special video features.
The best source for all of the latest NIU Athletics news and information, statistics, press releases and more is NIUHuskies.com. The Huskies' official athletics website includes video, links to live stats coverage, complete bios on Huskie players and coaches and archives.
NIU'S HARNISH HONORED AS NFF SCHOLAR-ATHLETE
On Oct. 25, NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish was named a recipient of one of 16 National Scholar-Athlete Awards from the National Football Foundation and is also a finalist for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy. Harnish, who earned his undergraduate degree in business management from the NIU College of Business last spring with a 3.65 grade point average, is currently pursuing his M.B.A. He will receive an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship and be honored, along with the other 15 NFF Scholar-Athletes, at the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 6, 2011 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York. The NFF Scholar-Athletes were selected from a pool of 127 nominees in all classifications of college football for their combined athletic, academic and leadership skills. Harnish, who owns 16 Northern Illinois career and single season records, including many that stood for nearly 50 years, is the third student-athlete from Northern Illinois to be named an NFF Scholar-Athlete, joining Patrick Stephen (1998) and Josh Haldi (2004).
NORTHERN ILLINOIS NEWS & NOTES
Return to Detroit
Northern Illinois returns to the Mid-American Conference Championship game for the second time in as many seasons and for the third time in school history. The MAC West Division champion Huskies, winners of seven straight games, meet East Division winners Ohio in the 2011 Marathon MAC Championship game on Friday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. (ET)/6 p.m. (CT) from Ford Field in Detroit.
Northern Illinois is one of the most consistently successful programs among non-automatic qualifying Bowl Championship Subdivision (BCS) teams. NIU is one of only SEVEN teams from "non-AQ" BCS leagues to win six or more games in each of the last four seasons (since 2008). The others with that distinction are Air Force, TCU, BYU, Southern Miss, Hawaii and Boise State.
Chasing a Championship
NIU won its only Mid-American Conference football championship in 1983 under head coach Bill Mallory. That team finished the season 10-2 after defeating Cal State Fullerton in the 1983 California Bowl. Northern Illinois posted an 8-1 record versus MAC competition in 1983 and won the league title with a 26-14 win over Toledo in DeKalb.
On the strength of its seven-game winning streak, Northern Illinois earned 19 points in this week's USA Today Coaches' Poll to move into the No. 30 spot. The Huskies also earned a vote in the Associated Press poll this week for the first time since the second week of the season to occupy the No. 36 position in that poll. The Huskies received four votes in both the preseason Associated Press and USA Today polls after getting votes in each of the final eight polls of 2010. Last year, NIU achieved season high rankings of 24th (AP) and 23rd (USA Today) in week 14 (Nov. 28). Following its Humanitarian Bowl win, the Huskies were ranked 29th and 26th, respectively.
Northern Illinois is completing its 26th season as a member of the Mid-American Conference in 2011. In MAC games, Northern Illinois is 107-90-2 all-time and the Huskies are 72-45 (.615) in conference games since rejoining the MAC in 1997. The Huskies have won 15 of their last 16 and 20 of their last 24 MAC regular season contests. NIU is playing its 15th consecutive campaign as a member of the MAC after initially competing as a league member from 1975-85.
Doeren's Debut Season
Dave Doeren has led Northern Illinois to a 9-3 record to become the winningest first-year head coach in school history. Doeren is completing his first season as a head coach after 16 seasons as a collegiate assistant. The 21st head football coach in school history, and the 10th since Northern Illinois became a major college program in 1969, Doeren came to NIU after five seasons at Wisconsin (2006-10), where he was linebackers coach and defensive coordinator (see bio next page).
NIU brings a seven-game winning streak into Friday's MAC Championship game, the fourth time since 2002 that NIU has won as many as seven straight. Last year, NIU's loss in the MAC title game snapped a nine-game winning streak. The 2002 and 2003 Huskies each won at least seven games during their 8-4 and 10-2 campaigns, respectively. NIU's current win streak began Oct. 8 at home versus Kent State and has continued with MAC victories over Western Michigan, Buffalo, Toledo, Bowling Green, Ball State and Eastern Michigan.
Special Senior Class
Northern Illinois honored 19 seniors prior to the Eastern Michigan game, including 14 players on offense, four defenders and one specialist. The group included 13 fifth-year seniors, one player from the 2008 signing class, four who have been at NIU for four years and one two-year player. They are currently tied for the fourth winningest NIU senior class all-time in victories with 33. All 19 seniors have seen playing time this year and are on the Huskies' two-deep for the MAC Championship game with 10 listed as starters on offense and three starting on defense. The 19 players have 308 career starts for the Huskies.
MAC Championship History
With its win over Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois claimed the 2011 Mid-American Conference West Division title by virtue of a tie-breaking win over Toledo on Nov. 1. The Huskies have previously played in the MAC championship game (played since 2004) in 2005 when the Huskies lost to Akron, 31-30, and in 2010 when NIU fell to Miami (Ohio) 26-21. The Huskies earned a share of the West Division crown in 2001, 2002 and 2004 before winning the division outright in '05. NIU is playing in its third MAC title game with its third different head coach.
Northern Illinois is playing in the postseason for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. The Huskies are bowl eligible for the fourth straight season; NIU has won at least six games 11 times in the past 12 years dating back to 2000 and is the most successful NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision team in the state of Illinois during that time.
Ford Field has been the site of two of the most heartbreaking last-second Northern Illinois losses in recent history as the 2011 Huskies look to exorcise demons of NIU teams past this year.
In 2005 versus Akron, NIU held a 30-24 lead with 17 seconds on the clock and Akron facing second and 10 at the NIU 36-yard line when Zips QB Luke Getsy hit Domenik Hixon for an improbable touchdown. The PAT gave Akron the MAC title. The Huskies took a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter but gave up three touchdowns while scoring only two field goals.
Last year, Northern Illinois led 21-20 with 1:51 on the clock and Miami facing fourth-and-20 on its own 38-yard line when MU receiver Chris Givens gained 31 yards on a pass that went over the head of one Huskie defender and was tipped by another. Two plays later, RedHawks quarterback Austin Boucher hit Adrian Robinson for a 33-yard touchdown with 33 seconds to play.
NIU's 2011 schedule and results bear an almost eerie similarity to the schedule and results of the 1983 NIU MAC Champion squad, albeit with one less game overall and no league title contest. Just like this year, the 1983 team played both Kansas and Wisconsin in its non-conference schedule and started a winning streak with a victory over Kent State. The 1983 team's only MAC loss came at Central Michigan and the squad had a one-point win along the way (24-23 over Bowling Green). That team closed out a nine-game Mid-American Conference schedule with a 41-17 win over...Ohio.
Cats `n Dogs
The 2011 MAC Championship match-up marks the 19th meeting between Northern Illinois and Ohio with each team claiming nine wins in the previous 18 games. The teams have played five times since Northern Illinois rejoined the league in 1997. NIU has faced Ohio more times than any other MAC East team except Kent State with the last game on Nov. 21, 2009 in Athens (a 38-31 OU victory). Prior to that, the teams played in DeKalb in 2003 (a 30-23 overtime win for NIU) and 2006 (a 31-13 Bobcats' victory). Ohio has won the last two games between the teams.
When Last We Met
In its first trip to Ohio since 1998, the Bobcats scored the first two and last two touchdowns of the game to claim a 38-31 victory on Nov. 21, 2009. A pair of returns led to OU's first two scores as their first TD was set up by a 64-yard kickoff return and the second came on a 91-yard punt return. The Huskies came back to tie the score at 14 before halftime. Each team scored off a turnover in the third quarter, with Ohio getting a field goal before Chad Spann scored on a one-yard run to give NIU a 21-17 lead. The teams traded TD passes with Ohio taking the lead for good with 5:38 remaining as the Huskies' final efforts fell short.
Northern Illinois clinched its spot in the MAC title game with an 18-12 victory over Eastern Michigan on Senior Day at Huskie Stadium. The game was not won until the Huskie defense stopped an EMU drive in the final minutes on back-to-back sacks by Alan Baxter and Sean Progar on second and third down, respectively, and a ball-jarring hit by defensive backs Demetrius Stone and Sean Evans on a fourth and 35 pass. The defense also recorded a safety, held EMU to a field goal from first and goal on the two in the first quarter and allowed only 280 yards on the day. Chandler Harnish hit Willie Clark with a 54-yard touchdown bomb and scored on a 68-yard run to record the Huskies' touchdowns. Harnish rushed for 148 yards on 17 carries to lead the Huskie offense, which converted just 2 of 13 first downs.
In winning the Eastern Michigan game while scoring just 18 points, Northern Illinois notched its lowest point total in a victory since Oct. 25, 2008 when the Huskies defeated Bowling Green, 16-13, in Huskie Stadium. NIU had won 27 games since that day and had not scored less than 23 points in those games. The Huskies' previous lowest scoring total in a win this season was 31 points in a 31-30 victory at Buffalo (Oct. 22).
Half (6) of Northern Illinois' games in 2011 have been decided by seven points or less, and the Huskies have come out ahead four times, winning each of its last four "close calls". During its seven-game winning streak, NIU has defeated Buffalo (by one point), Toledo (3), Ball State (3) and Eastern Michigan (6) after falling to Kansas (3) and Central Michigan (7) earlier this year. NIU's 4-2 record in "close" games this season ties its best mark ever (since records became available in 1920) with the 7-4 1980 team that was also 4-2 in games decided by seven points or less. In 2007 and 2008, Northern Illinois played seven close games, but had just a 2-5 record, while the 2002 team went 4-3 in close games to finish 8-4 overall.
Every Which Way
The Huskies "close call" victories have been secured in nearly every way imaginable. At Buffalo, the Huskies saw a determined Bulls squad storm back from a 31-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to pull within one point at 31-30, before the potential game-tying PAT hooked left. In the "which offense has the ball last" track meet at Toledo, it was NIU scoring the game-winning TD with 19 seconds remaining on a Harnish to Perez Ashford four-yard pass. The Huskies kicked a game-winning field goal with eight seconds on the clock to break a tie and beat Ball State, then won with a defensive stand in the final two minutes to best Eastern Michigan.
At Home in a Dome
With its appearance in Ford Field for the second straight season, Northern Illinois will play an indoor game for the fifth straight year and for the sixth time in the last seven years. Two years ago, the Huskies' played in the enclosed Rogers Centre, a retractable roof stadium, in Toronto, and NIU opened the 2008 campaign versus Minnesota in the Metrodome. the Huskies took on Idaho in its Kibbie Dome in 2007 and of course, played on this same field in 2005.
Streaking in the Stadium
Northern Illinois' victory over Eastern Michigan was its school-record breaking 15th consecutive win at Huskie Stadium, breaking the previous mark of 14 set between Nov. 5, 1988 and Sept. 14, 1991. NIU has also won 12 straight Mid-American Conference games in DeKalb, with the last loss at Huskie Stadium a 33-30 overtime setback to Central Michigan on Nov. 12, 2008. NIU posted a perfect 5-0 record at Huskie Stadium in 2010 and was 6-0 in DeKalb this year.
If You're Counting
The MAC Championship game will be the 1,036th game in Northern Illinois history and the Huskies will be looking for their 522nd victory. NIU has a 521-463-51 all-time record for a winning percentage of .528. Since 2000, Northern Illinois is 88-59 (.599) and has 10 winning seasons. Over that time, NIU owns the best mark of any of the three Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the state of Illinois, ahead of both Illinois and Northwestern.
Northern Illinois continues its "ESPNovember" into December with its fifth consecutive appearance on an ESPN network. NIU's contests at Toledo and Bowling Green both aired on ESPN2 and the Huskies' most recent games versus Ball State and Eastern Michigan were broadcast on ESPNU. Since 2005, NIU has played 13 November games in front of the ESPN cameras with eight games on ESPN2, one on ESPN Classic and four on ESPNU. Including the 2011 games, NIU is 5-3 on ESPN2 in November, 5-0 on ESPNU and 0-1 on Classic.
Dual Threat Top 15
One of the top dual threat signal callers in the nation, Chandler Harnish currently ranks 15th in the country in rushing yards per game AND in passing efficiency. He leads all FBS quarterbacks with 1,351 rushing yards on 172 carries and is averaging 112.6 yards per game to rank third in the MAC. With an average of 7.9 yards per carry, he is on pace to destroy the NIU single-season mark of 6.76 set by Adam Dach in 1990. His passing efficiency rating of 154.36 (on 203-of-322 passing with a career season high 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions for 2,692 yards) ranks second in the MAC. Harnish ranks seventh in the country and leads the league in total offense with 336.92 yards per game.
With 1,351 rushing and 2,692 passing yards this season, NIU's Chandler Harnish is compiling rushing and passing numbers rarely reached in NCAA annals. Only 10 players in NCAA FBS history have reached 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing in a season; among those 10, Harnish's rushing total is the fourth-highest, behind only UAB's Joe Webb (2009), Auburn's Cam Newton (2010) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (2010) and of that group, he has more passing yards than Webb and Robinson. If Harnish reaches the 1,500/3,000 plateaus in 2011, he will become the FIRST player in NCAA FBS history to reach those totals.
Quite a Career
While Harnish's single season numbers are eye-opening, his career rushing and passing yardage totals are also noteworthy. He enters the Ohio game, the 46th of his career, with 2,955 rushing and 8,420 passing yards and needs 45 rushing yards to become only the third quarterback in FBS history to rush for 3,000 yards and pass for 8,000 in a career. Currently Missouri's Brad Smith (4,289 rush/8,799 pass from 2002-05) and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (4,112 rush/10,098 pass from 2007-10) are the only players in the 3,000-8,000 club.
He's Got Legs...
Chandler Harnish has led the Huskies in rushing in eight games this season, including each of the last seven, and has rushed for 100-plus yards in each of NIU's last four games and six times overall this year. With 181 rushing yards versus Ball State, Harnish surpassed Stacey Robinson (1988-90) as the top rushing quarterback in Northern Illinois history and he now ranks eighth on the Huskies' career rushing yardage list after passing 2010 rushing leader Chad Spann with 148 yards last week. Harnish has 2,955 career rushing yards on 516 carries. His 24 career rushing scores, including 11 in 2011, rank ninth all-time in that category while his 11 career 100-yard rushing games are tied for eighth on NIU's career chart.
Chandler Harnish currently owns or shares 20 Northern Illinois records after setting the single-game total offense record versus Ball State with 519 yards (338 passing and 181 rushing), breaking the previous mark of 477 set by Phil Horvath versus Akron on Sept. 24, 2005 and adding the single season mark for Touchdowns Responsible For (34) with one rushing and one passing score versus EMU. Harnish has even broken several of his own single season records (set last year). In 45 career games, Harnish has completed 653-of-1,048 passes for 8,420 yards (all records) with a school-record six 300-yard passing games, including three this season. He has 11,375 yards of total offense and 87 touchdowns (rushing and passing) in 1,564 plays - also school records, and has averaged 7.3 yards per play in his career.
Terrific on Tuesday
NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish starred in the Huskies' three Tuesday night November contests, rushing for over 100 yards and passing for more than 200 in each game. Harnish totaled 465 rushing (a 155-yard average) and 897 passing yards (a 299-yard average) in Tuesday night games at Toledo, at Bowling Green and versus Ball State. His yardage numbers increased in each game, with 133 rushing and 265 passing yards to go along with six touchdown passes at Toledo, 151 rushing and 294 passing yards and three total scores at Bowling Green, and 181 rushing and 338 passing yards with three TDs versus Ball State. Harnish's 519 yards of total offense against BSU tied for the third-highest total by an FBS player this season.
The 200-200 Club
Chandler Harnish put himself in the NCAA record books with a rare 200-200 performance versus Western Michigan. Harnish became only the 10th player in FBS history to have 200 passing AND 200 rushing yards in the same game as he completed 14-of-27 passes for 203 yards and ran for 229 yards on 14 carries. Harnish joined an elite list of players that includes Texas' Vince Young (2005), Patrick White of West Virginia (2006), Brad Smith of Missouri (2005), Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (2000) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (2010). Harnish's 432-yard total offense day earned Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Huskie quarterback has rushed and passed for more than 100 yards in the same game nine times in his career.
Huskie quarterback Chandler Harnish is one of only three MAC players to rush for 200 or more yards in a game this season with his 229-yard effort versus Western Michigan; the performance ranks 15th among all players and is the top rushing total by any FBS quarterback in 2011. He gained 163 yards in the third quarter, the second-highest single quarter total ever at NIU, behind only a 173-yard second quarter by Stacey Robinson versus Fresno State on Oct. 6, 1990. It was the third-best rushing game by an NIU quarterback in school history and the best in 21 years, since Robinson's NCAA record 306-yard total in that October 1990 win over Fresno State.
Best Passing Day
As a redshirt freshman starting his first career game at Minnesota in 2008, Chandler Harnish threw for 326 yards on 17-of-29 completions to record the best passing yardage day of his NIU career. That total held for 37 games, until Oct. 1, 2011 when Harnish threw for 370 yards on 27-of-50 passing at Central Michigan. The 370 yards rank sixth all-time at NIU, while 27 completions tied Harnish's career-best and are fifth on the single-game list as are the 50 pass attempts. Harnish's 462 yards of total offense (370 pass, 92 rush) versus CMU are now the third-most by an NIU player.
The Northern Illinois offense produced some astronomical numbers versus Ball State with 710 yards of total offense - the second-highest total in school history - on 95 plays. For the third time in 2011, two NIU players gained more than 100 rushing yards as Chandler Harnish ran for 181 yards and tailback Jasmin Hopkins added 122 for his second 100-yard day of the season. The most eye-opening stat of the night came under the heading of first downs as Northern Illinois posted 43 first downs while scoring 41 points. The Huskies' first down total was just two less than the NCAA single game record.
Northern Illinois defeate Ball State, 41-38, on Tuesday, Nov. 15 when NIU kicker Mathew Sims hit a 34-yard field goal with eight seconds on the clock. Sims' three-pointer capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive in a game where Northern Illinois trailed by as many as 17 points in the second half. Chandler Harnish powered the Huskie comeback as he scored on a 49-yard run and led two NIU late touchdown drives that ended in Jasmin Hopkins' 11-yard TD run and a 27-yard touchdown catch and run by Nathan Palmer. The Huskies totaled 710 yards of total offense, the second most in school history, and a school record 43 first downs, in the game. Following the game, Sims was asked when was the last time he had made a game-winning field goal. The Missouri native's reply, "Never. That was my first one."
Back in his middle linebacker position for the first time since 2009, senior Pat Schiller leads the Huskie defense with 103 tackles, becoming the first NIU defender to surpass the 100-tackle mark since 2007 when Alex Kube had 111 stops. Schiller's tackle total marks a career high and he has also had his best year with 10 tackles for loss (fourth on the team), two sacks and six pass break ups. A redshirt senior who has come back from a serious knee injury, Schiller has 227 career tackles and 19 tackles for loss.
Unsung and Unexpected
One of the most unexpected impact players on the Huskie defense this year has been senior defensive tackle Ron Newcomb. A redshirt senior from Wheatfield, Ind., Newcomb entered 2011 with 13 career tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and three pass break ups in just 15 games of action. Entering the Ohio game, Newcomb leads all NIU defensive linemen with 46 tackles and leads the Huskies in tackles for loss with 11.5; his 4.5 quarterback sacks are second on the team and he has four pass break-ups. Versus Eastern Michigan, Newcomb added two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass break-up to his season totals.
NIU's record-setting offense has been powered by one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the country. Behind redshirt seniors Trevor Olson (LT), Scott Wedige (C), Joe Pawlak (RG) and Keith Otis (RT) and redshirt junior Logan Pegram (LG), NIU ranks eighth nationally in rushing offense, 11th in scoring offense and ninth in total offense. The Huskies rank fourth in the country in fewest sacks allowed and had a string of five straight games without allowing a sack snapped by Ball State. They have allowed only eight sacks on the year. Since 2007, only eight programs nationally have given up less than 10 sacks in a season and no MAC team has ever surrendered less than 10 sacks since the stat has been recorded (2004). NIU's five veterans up front have made 163 combined starts, led by Olson's 52 and former walk-on Pawlak's 39. Otis and Wedige have 26 starts each; Pegram has started 20 contests after missing the last two.
Huskie senior offensive tackle Trevor Olson set the NIU school record for games started versus Ball State when he made his 51st career start and is expected to add to that total Friday night and make his 53rd career start. Olson broke the record set by Huskie center Eddie Adamski from 2006-09. The Huskies' starting left tackle for every game of his career beginning in 2008, he was a first team All-MAC choice a year ago.
Hoosier State Hook-Up
While Huskie quarterback Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind.) has spread the wealth in terms of the passing game this year, senior Nathan Palmer (Elkhart, Ind.) leads NIU with 42 catches for 568 yards and five touchdowns to establish career highs in both catches and yards. Palmer, an aspiring singer whose Huskie-inspired song is played during NIU's pregame warmups, caught three Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind.) touchdown passes at Toledo to tie for third on the NIU single game list for TD catches in a game. Palmer became the first Huskie to catch three touchdown passes in a game since current Chicago Bear Sam Hurd versus Central Michigan on Nov. 5, 2005.
Forty is the New 30
With its season-best 63-point outburst at Toledo, Northern Illinois broke its school record for most 40-point games in a season. The Huskies have hit the 40-point mark in nine of their 12 games this year, including in two of NIU's three losses. They broke the previous Northern Illinois record of six 40-point games in a season. NIU is now averaging 39.6 points per game, above last year's school record average of 38.0 points per game.
Leading the League
With the Huskie offense scoring at a record rate, sophomore kicker Mathew Sims is posting some noticeable numbers as well. Sims leads the MAC in kick scoring with 9.2 points per game with his 111 points (57 PATs and 18 FGs). He ranks 16th nationally in overall scoring and is tied for 15th in field goals. At Central Michigan, Sims made four-of-six field goals, and he hit all four of his three pointers versus Kent State when he was named one of the Lou Groza Award "Stars of the Week." His perfect day tied for the top percentage game in school history and was the first time since 2000 that an NIU kicker went four-for-four or better on threes.
Sophomore kicker Mathew Sims has set a pair of NIU single-season scoring records on the year as he has a school-record 111 points on 18 field goals and a school-record 57 PATs so far this season, surpassing the kicking points and PATs made records set by kicker Mike Cklamovksi a year ago. Sims' 111 points rank eighth on the single season charts for points. He is also already on the Huskie career scoring charts with 121 points and 61 PATs made to rank eighth and seventh on the NIU career lists, respectively.
On The Hop
Over the last 13 seasons, Northern Illinois has had a player run for 1,000 or more yards 12 times (see chart), and Chandler Harnish became the first quarterback to add his name to that list earlier this year. NIU has never had two players gain 1,000 yards in the same season, but tailback Jasmin Hopkins can join the 1,000-yard club with 128 rushing yards. Hopkins already leads the Huskies, and ranks second in the MAC, in touchdowns with 16. He has three 100-yard games this season (vs. Army, Cal Poly and Ball State) and four in his career. Hopkins also leads NIU in touchdowns with 16 (15 rushing/one receiving) and scored 10 rushing touchdowns in the Huskies' last six games. He has at least one TD in nine of Northern Illinois' 12 games with five multiple touchdown games. With 16 TDs in 174 touches, Hopkins scores approximately once every 11 times he touches the ball.
In Search Of...
The Northern Illinois defense is in search of its first interception in four games as the Huskies have not picked off a pass since the Buffalo contest, when both Rashaan Melvin and Dechane Durante recorded INTs. NIU has seven interceptions by six different players this year, with Melvin the only player with multiple pickoffs. On the flip side, Huskie quarterbacks have thrown only four interceptions this year and have not had a pass picked off since the Western Michigan contest. NIU and its opponents each have 10 fumble recoveries in 2011.
After missing the Bowling Green game due to injury, junior receiver Martel Moore has caught 11 passes in NIUs last two games with six catches for 120 yards versus Ball State and five grabs for 29 yards in the EMU game. Versus Ball State, Moore tied his career high for catches in recording his third career 100-yard receiving day. He opened the Huskies' scoring with a 15-yard touchdown play and had catches of 40 and 44 yards to set up NIU scores. Moore ranks second on the team in receiving yards with 469 on 37 catches and is tied for the team lead in touchdown catches with five.
Northern Illinois junior noseguard Nabal Jefferson earned first team Capital One Academic All-District honors and is now eligible to earn Academic All-America recognition from the College Sports Information Directors of America. Jefferson, an accountancy major with a 3.91 grade point average who is having a career year on the NIU defensive line with 35 tackles, is the Huskies' first Academic All-District selection since 2008.
Spreading the Wealth
Chandler Harnish has hit 10 different receivers for touchdowns this year with six players scoring multiple receiving TDs. In addition, three Huskies (Nathan Palmer, Willie Clark, Martel Moore) have recorded 100-yard receiving days. In all, 16 players have caught passes and eight receivers have at least 10 catches on the year.
Wild One at Toledo
Chandler Harnish completed his sixth touchdown pass of the night on a four-yard toss to Perez Ashford with 19 seconds on the clock to lift NIU to a 63-60 win over Toledo in the Glass Bowl on Nov. 1. After taking a 49-41 lead early in the fourth quarter, NIU gave up back-to-back touchdowns to the Rockets and trailed 53-49 before coming back twice in the final eight minutes to claim the Huskies' third win all-time at Toledo. NIU struck early as freshman Tommylee Lewis brought the opening kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown and scored on a 95-yard return after Toledo answered with a score.
After leading the Huskies to a 63-60 win at Toledo by throwing six touchdown passes - the second-most in MAC and in NIU history - including the game-winner with 19 seconds left, Chandler Harnish was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week and the Rivals.com MAC Player of the Week. Harnish completed 17-of-26 passes for 265 yards and rushed 16 times for 133 yards. Freshman kickoff returner Tommylee Lewis also earned MAC West Specialist of the Week recognition for the Toledo contest after returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns (see below).
Lightning Strikes - Twice
Versus Toledo, fans had barely settled in their seats when NIU freshman Tommylee Lewis brought the game's opening kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown, tying the school record for longest scoring play (Dave Petway, 100-yard INT return vs. Southern Illinois, 10-22-77) and setting the mark for longest kickoff return TD (previous record, 98 yards by Byron Florence vs. Western Michigan, Sept. 23, 1972). Four minutes and 30 seconds later, Lewis went 95 yards untouched to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. That return tied for the ninth-longest scoring play, and fifth longest kickoff return, in NIU history.
Lewis joined a group of 13 players in Football Bowl Subdivision (NCAA Division I-A) history who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. The list includes players like Raghib Ismail (Notre Dame), the only person to score twice on kickoff returns in two games. With his two kickoff return scores versus Toledo, Lewis became the first player in Northern Illinois history to return two kickoff returns for scores in the same game; he tied the NIU records for most kickoff return scores in a season and in a career.
Conversions Are Key
After converting a season-low 2-of-13 third downs versus Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois ranks 21st in the nation and third in the MAC in third-down conversion percentage with a 47.6 mark (79-of-166). The Huskies have hit the 50 percent mark in seven of their 12 games this season, including a season-best 11-of-13 conversions in the Army game and a nine-of-12 mark versus Cal Poly.
The Eastern Michigan game marked the first time this season an opponent has returned a punt for positive yardage as EMU had a 13-yard return on Neir's 51-yard boot. Through 11 games, Northern Illinois opponents have totaled 11 yards on seven punt returns for an average of 1.6 yards per return. Of NIU punter Ryan Neir's 49 punts, 30 have been fair caught and 13 have resulted in the opponent starting inside the 20-yard line. Neir has not had a kick go into the end zone. In the EMU game, he also had a career-long 54-yard kick downed at the one-yard line, setting up a Huskie safety.
So Long Saturdays
The Buffalo game on Oct. 22 marked Northern Illinois' last Saturday game of the 2011 season. NIU enjoyed 10 days between the game at Buffalo and the first of its three straight Tuesday games (Nov. 1 at Toledo) and had another nine days off between last Tuesday's home contest versus Ball State (Nov. 15) and Friday's regular season finale. The EMU game marked the first time since starting the weekday schedule that NIU has had more days off than its opponent. For the MAC title game, Northern Illinois will again face a foe that has enjoyed more days between games as Ohio last played on Tuesday.
Novak's Last Class
Of the 19 seniors on Northern Illinois' 2011 roster, 13 are fifth-year players signed as part of former head coach Joe Novak's last signing class. The 13 were on the Huskie team that won just two games in 2007 but are now among a small group of Northern Illinois players to have played on three bowl teams. Among NIU's 13 fifth-year seniors, 10 are listed as starters and all 13 are on the two-deep. The group includes four players who were on the 2007 team as walk-ons, receiver Willie Clark, offensive guard Joe Pawlak, fullback Pat McAvoy and tight end Jack Marks, along with 52-game starter Trevor Olson at left tackle and four-year starting quarterback Chandler Harnish.
After making a name for himself as a true freshman on special teams with three blocked punts, defensive back Jimmie Ward has become one of the most consistent players in the Huskies' defensive backfield in 2011. Ward ranks second on the NIU team in tackles with 87 and his 40 solo stops are second on the squad. Ward led NIU in tackles at Toledo and versus Wisconsin, with 13 and 11, respectively. The Alabama native also has a quarterback sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, a blocked punt and four pass break ups on the season.
On the Blocks
Northern Illinois has blocked four kicks this season, including three punts. NIU blocked a punt and a field goal versus Kent State with Dechane Durante getting his hands on a punt, while Ron Newcomb knocked down a late Flashes' field goal attempt. NIU's other punt blocks this season have been by Courtney Stephen, who blocked a punt versus Cal Poly, and Jimmie Ward. Stephen recovered Ward's block versus Army and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. A year ago, the Huskies blocked five punts and seven total kicks, including a blocked extra point and field goal in the MAC Championship game.
Along the Line
While the Huskies' defensive line rotation features as many as 10 players, junior defensive end Sean Progar and senior tackle Ron Newcomb have stood out. Progar, a first team All-MAC choice a year ago, leads NIU and is ranked in the top five in the league with a team-leading 5.5 quarterback sacks and was named MAC West Defensive Player of the Week for his play versus EMU when he recorded a safety and a key sack. Versus Kent State, Newcomb totaled 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss, made a career high nine tackles, forced a fumble and blocked a field goal to earn the MAC Defensive POTW honor.
Good Day for the Defense
Northern Illinois held Kent State to 64 total yards, the lowest by an NIU opponent since the Huskies joined the Major College (Division I FBS) ranks in 1969. The Flashes' one rushing yard on 38 carries was the lowest total since Miami (Ohio) had minus 11 rushing yards on Oct. 24, 2009. KSU's 63 passing yards were the fewest since Eastern Michigan tallied just 11 passing yards last year (11-26-10). In addition, Northern Illinois' 15 tackles for loss were the most since NIU had a school-record 16 versus Eastern Michigan in 2002 (11-16), while the 84 yards lost were the most ever by an NIU defense, breaking the old record of minus 80 yards versus Wisconsin (9-14-02). The Huskies' eight sacks were their most since Oct. 24, 2009 versus Miami.
Defensive Lineman's Dream
Nabal Jefferson fulfilled a defensive lineman's dream versus Kent State when he picked off an attempted screen pass and returned it 25 yards to record the first score of 2011 for the Huskie defense. Northern Illinois picked off a season-best two passes versus both WMU and Buffalo with safeties Demetrius Stone (WMU) and Dechane Durante (UB) and linebacker Michael Santacaterina (WMU) recording their first career INTs. NIU's interceptions have been by a linebacker (1), defensive linemen (2), defensive backs (4).
Northern Illinois has 36 Chicagoland natives on its 110-man roster in 2011. NIU's Chicago contingent includes starters Da'Ron Brown, Jack Marks, Joe Pawlak, Keith Otis and Willie Clark on offense, along with Alan Baxter, Ron Newcomb, Nabal Jefferson, Sean Progar, Pat Schiller and Rashaan Melvin on defense.