Best of the First Century

THE GREATEST GAMES

Stacey Robinson, QB
Stacey Robinson, QB
#1: NIU 73, Fresno State 18 (October 6, 1990)
- The ultimate Fantasy Island Huskie triumph with (1) the most points scored vs. Associated Press Top 25 team, (2) the school-record 806 yards total offense, and (3) QB Stacey Robinson's NCAA record 308 yards and five touchdowns rushing. "I thought I was in Norman, OK," groaned FSU coach Jim Sweeney.

#2: NIU 19, Wisconsin 17 (September 17, 1988)
- Finally, that first giddy victory over the Big Ten Conference, thanks to the in-step of PK John Ivanic and his four field goals (33, 44, 23, and 31 yards-including the winner with 1:24 left). Brent Musburger's on-air congratulations to coach Jerry Pettibone's Huskies on CBS-TV's "NFL Today" the next day didn't hurt either.

#3: NIU 21, Southwest Missouri State 14 (November 30, 1963)
- The National Championship. No. 1 in the AP College Division and NAIA polls. QB George Bork's 40-yard fourth quarter pass to FB Dave Broderick appropriately culminated the school's first (1) bowl victory and (2) 10-0-0 season.

#4: NIU 26, Toledo 10 (November 12, 1983)
- Possibly, the Huskies' Biggest Showdown Game during its 1-A years. The 9-0-0 Rockets arrived in DeKalb as one of nation's three remaining "major" unbeatens, plus with Sports Illustrated tagging along. After FB Joel Kinkade's 25-yard TD jaunt with a QB Tim Tyrrell screen pass in the first quarter and PK Vince Scott's 14 kick-scoring points, it was Northern Illinois in the Cal Bowl Driver's Seat. Why didn't ABC-TV carry this as a regional game?

#5: NIU 27, Nebraska-Omaha 26 (November 17, 1951)
- Capped 9-0-0 campaign with winning TD on a six-yard QB Bob Heimerdinger-to-HB Dan Mojica pass and the biggest career PAT for PK Pat McKillen with 0:35 left in game. Northern Illinois rallied from 26-6 deficit in final 16 minutes and positioned self for possible Tangerine Bowl bid. One of most important comebacks in school history.

#6: NIU 37, Kansas 34 (September 3, 1983)
- Another Bill Mallory Huskie milestone-the school's first triumph vs. the Big Eight-thanks to a clutch 26-yard field goal with 0:08 remaining by PK Vince Scott. Beating the Jayhawks set the tone for The Championship Season. The unsung hero would be senior FB Lou Wicks (game-high 86 yards and two TDs on 20 carries).

#7: NIU 20, Cal State-Fullerton 13 (December 17, 1983)
- National television audience witnesses first Northern Illinois "major" post-season triumph at California Bowl III in Fresno. TB Darryl Richardson scored go-ahead TD with 3:13 left in third period and PK Vince Scott added 42-yard fourth quarter field goal. Game MVP Lou Wicks topped all rushers with 117 yards on 14 attempts. "We might not be the fanciest team," understated Bill Mallory afterwards, "but most of the time we find something that will work."

#8: NIU 27, Central Michigan 22 (November 9, 1963)
IIAC title clincher on the road, thanks to two of greatest single-game performances in Huskie Record Books-(1) QB George Bork hitting a school-record 43-of-68 passes for 416 yards and two TDs, plus (2) SE Gary Stearns catching 17 passes for 188 yards and one TD.

#9: NIU 24, Bowling Green State 23 (October 22, 1983)
- Nerve-wracking Homecoming triumph. Trailing 20-0 at halftime, Northern Illinois outscored the Falcons, 24-3, in the final 30 minutes to remain unbeaten in the Mid-American Conference. QB Tim Tyrrell ignited the Huskie rally with key 43-yard TD run on keeper and 253 second-half total offense yards.

#10: NIU 28, Kent State 7 (October 28, 1972)
- Important win in pre-MAC days vs. defending league champions, renown as the (Don) James Gang with all-time Golden Flash LB great Jack Lambert. Behind FB Mark Kellar (146 yards rushing), Northern Illinois produced 541 yards of total offense.

THE GREATEST PLAYS

#1: HB Reino Nori - Dashed for 99-yard TD on longest rush in Northern Illinois history vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater (November 17, 1934). "A punt went dead on our one," Nori said. "We planned to try to get the ball out to about the four or five or so we could get off a kick. Well, a hole opened up in the middle and before I knew it I was out to the 30 and I look around and that was all there was to it." The good guys won, 14-0.

#2: TB LeShon Johnson - Best run in traffic and longest by a Huskie on Homecoming. Momentum-changing 85-yard TD run vs. Southern Mississippi (October 10, 1992). The "Cowboy" took a pitchout, swept outside, cut back on a dime, and broke an ankle tackle, accelerated through a group of would-be USM tacklers, and finished The Run with a 30-yard sprint down the west sideline. Vintage LeShon (188 yards) in a 23-10 Huskie upset.

#3: QB Bob Heimerdinger - Facing a crucial fourth down and 10-yards-to-go situation in winning, fourth quarter TD march vs. Nebraska-Omaha (November 17, 1951), "Heimer" faded back to pass and finding no one open, scrambled up the middle, dodged three tacklers for a 24- yard gain. "If there was a big play that season, that was it," said Hall of Fame teammate Fran Cahill. "I can still remember being downfield trying to get free and watching 'Heimer' duck everybody in the backfield. It seems like it took forever, like one of those slow-motion films.

#4: LB Larry Clark - Returned pass interception for (then) school-record 88 yards with 4:00 left in game for insurance TD in 22-13 triumph at Long Beach State (November 17, 1972) that guaranteed 7-4-0 year for enthusiastic, secondyear head coach Jerry Ippoliti who followed Clark down the sidelines for all 88 yards.

Tim Tyrrell, QB
Tim Tyrrell, QB
#5: QB Tim Tyrrell - Started Comeback of Year in Cal Bowl season with 43-yard keeper down Huskie Stadium east sidelines for third period TD vs. Bowling Green State (October 22, 1983). "We needed something to get life back in the team," said Bill Mallory. "That first score was like giving someone who hasn't eaten in awhile something to eat. I knew we were on our way."

#6: SE John Spilis - Took opening kickoff 97 yards in driving rain for TD during historic 7-6 Northern Illinois triumph vs. Bowling Green State (November 16, 1968). The Spilis TD-the longest KO return in school history at the time-and HB Wayne Fiedler's PAT kick stood up for the school's first win vs. a "major" school in coach Howard Fletcher's final Huskie Stadium game and the facility's last contest on natural turf.

#7: OG Todd Peat - With 5:25 left in the California Bowl, here's the situation: Northern Illinois ball on its own 20 yard line on fourth down and one-yard to go in a 20-13 contest. Coach Bill Mallory sent Tim Tyrrell on a QB sneak over freshman Peat's OG spot for a first down and milked almost four more minutes off the clock vs. Cal State-Fullerton (December 17, 1983).

#8: FLK Mike Pinckney - Kicked off the Mallory Era in style by returning the opening KO 97 yards for a TD in a 16-9 triumph vs. Long Beach State (September 5, 1980) in Anaheim Stadium.

#9: QB Stacey Robinson - Ran perfectly executed sprint draw for untouched nine-yard TD with 0:49 left in game to finish a 21-point fourth period Huskie rally and clinch a 42-35 triumph over Kansas State (September 22, 1990).

#10: FB Ollie Krahenbuhl - Booted second longest punt in Northern Illinois history, a 90-yarder vs. Illinois State (November 12, 1938). "I got lucky. There must have been a 50 mile-per-hour wind," Krahenbuhl said. "What happened? On the next play, ISU centered the ball out of their end zone for a safety. We won, 2-0. Look it up." Ollie, you were right. Final score: NIU 2, ISU 0

THE GREATEST PERFORMANCES

#1: TB LeShon Johnson vs. Iowa (November 6, 1993) - From a national standpoint, how do you refute 306 yards rushing vs. a Big Ten bowl team with a Kinnick Stadium record at the time? Ex-Iowa standout Ed Podolak who held the mark (286 yards) worked the game as the color analyst for WHO-AM radio in Des Moines. "He's (Johnson) one of the three best running backs in the nation, but (Michigan's) Tyrone Wheatley is better," Podolak said on the air at halftime. Two hours later, Podolak and most of the 64,129 spectators became converts. "Wheatley can't carry this kid's jock."

#2: QB Stacey Robinson vs. Fresno State (October 6, 1990) - "The Wiz"-short for "Wishbone Wizard II"-made (1) ESPN, (2) Football News, (3) Sports Illustrated, and (4) Chicago Tribune National Player of the Week. This Wishbone clinic was the No. 2 college football story that night on ESPN's "SportsCenter." Robinson (308 yards on 22 carries) scored five first-half TDs (39, 9, 41, 67, and 11 yards) without being touched vs. a Top 25 opponent. His halftime rushing total (287 yards) still ranks as the most by any QB in the history of the game (TCU RB LaDainian Tomlinson tied the record versus UTEP in 1999). "That was an All-America performance," said Northern Illinois coach Jerry Pettibone. "Unbelievable. I saw Mike Rozier and Roger Craig at Nebraska and Billy Sims at Oklahoma. I've seen a lot of great individual games. I thought that was the best." In the interest of gridiron diplomacy, Pettibone pulled "The Wiz" early in the third quarter. Otherwise, the Huskie Stadium stats crew would be still counting yardage.

#3: QB George Bork vs. Central Michigan (November 9, 1963) - This is classic Bork. Forget about his pre-Brigham Young 43-of-68 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns in the IIAC title-clincher. The College Football Hall of Famer marched coach Howard Fletcher's Huskies on a crucial 72-yard TD march by hitting 10-of-15 aerials in the final 93 seconds of the opening half. "That's the best scoring drive I've ever seen in person, on film, or on TV," "Fletch" said.

#4: SE Gary Stearns vs. Central Michigan (November 9, 1963) - Three Northern Illinois players caught 10 or more passes in this game, topped by Stearn's school-record 17 for 188 yards. At a school with a great throwing heritage-Cahill, Eck, Rohrschneider, Spilis, Petzke, etc., it's even more amazing.

#5: HB Bill Anderson vs. Wheaton College (October 19, 1912) - In 2003, seven touchdowns would definitely get your face on ESPN. Anderson must settle for the school's single-game TD and scoring record (42 points) from the Huskies' all-time scoring performance (114 points).

#6: LB Frank Lewandoski vs. Western Michigan (September 16, 1978) - Ornery. Durable. You pick the cliche for No. 50. "Lew" set the school and MAC single-game tackle record with 33 vs. the Broncos and their TB Jerome Persell (39 carries for 205 yards) that evening. But 33 tackles in one game? "Frank Lewandoski is the single most relentless competitor it has ever been my pleasure to coach," said NIU boss Pat Culpepper, who might know something about relentless in his days as an All-America LB at Texas.

#7: FB Bob Brigham vs. Washburn (KS) (September 24, 1948) - Better known as the best blocking back in coach "Chick" Evans' fabled "Pony Backfield" in the late 1940s, Brigham produced the Huskies' first post World War II mega-yardage game with a school-record 242-a mark that stood until FB Mark Kellar in 1973.

#8: FB Mark Kellar vs. Illinois State (October 27, 1973) - For the second straight week, the "Carpentersville Cruncher" won UPI National Backfield of the Week honors during his run for the NCAA 1-A rushing title with 246 yards-a record that lasted until TB Allen Ross in 1977.

#9: TB Allen Ross vs. Ohio (November 19, 1977)-Earned (1) MAC Player of the Week, (2) AP National Back of the Week, and (3) UPI National Backfield of the Week honors for school-record 254 yards in final game of freshman year. His performance vs. OU gave No. 13 1,043 yards for the season-marking only the sixth frosh in NCAA 1-A history to surpass 1,000-yards.

#10: TB LeShon Johnson vs. Southern Illinois (October 2, 1993) - The "Cowboy" ripped for a school-record 322 yards and three TDs (92, 60, 60 yards) on only 20 attempts and made Chicago Tribune National Player of the Week. With only nine carries in the second half, LeShon might have gained in the 400s. Trend? Yes, LeShon took a pitch and ripped those 92 yards on the Huskies' first play from scrimmage.