AKRON, OH In the pre-season, the Northern Illinois Huskies were picked to win the Mid-American Conference Western Division. Saturday night, they sent an emphatic message that they are going to be the team to beat as they routed the Akron Zips 50-14 before an announced crowd of 12,133 at InfoCision Stadium.
Northern Illinois (3-2, 1-0) has now won three of their last four games, completed a three-game road stretch in where they went 2-1, and won their MAC opener for the third consecutive season.
Were just glad to get a win. We had a tough road stretch. NIU head coach Jerry Kill said after the game. We didnt get back from Minnesota (last Saturday) until 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning. We came here early Friday, so I was worried on how we were going to play. Im proud of the kids; they played hard and did what they were supposed to do.
Akron (0-5, 0-1) over the last three games has given up 132 points and 1,492 yards. The Zips lost their MAC opener for the third consecutive season and are 0-5 for the first time since 2002.
Northern Illinois dominated us in every phase of the game tonight. UA Head Coach Rob Ianello said afterwards. They were a more physical team than us. They had more urgency than us and certainly outplayed us in all phases of the game.
The game was played entirely in the rain, which did not stop the Huskies offense one bit. They scored points on eight of their nine possessions en route to gaining 520 total yards.
Junior quarterback Chandler Harnish completed 16-of-20 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns, which ties a career best. The native of Bluffton, Indiana found seven difference receivers on the evening, with six of the passes going to sophomore wide receiver Martel Moore for 85 yards.
I think Chandler is playing as well as he has since I have been here, especially the last three games. He has done a real good job and is getting better, Kill said. We had some great catches tonight I dont believe we dropped a ball.
Running back Chad Spann, now averaging 108.4 ypg. and 6.6 ypc, was limited to 84 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown after rushing for 223 yards and two scores in NIUs 34-23 win at Minnesota.
The game was competitive for about a quarter, as the Huskies took the opening kickoff and moved to the UA 10, where the drive stalled. Kicker Michael Cklamovski connected on a 27-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The Huskies defense stopped the Zips on their first possession and forced a punt. Tommy Davis fumbled, and special teams standout Adam Steiner recovered for Akron at the Northern Illinois 11. From there, it took four plays to get into the end zone with senior running back Alex Allen scoring from one yard out.
From then on, it was all Red and Black.
The Huskies scored on their next eight possessions in the game. They took the lead in the second quarter for good on two Cklamovski field goals - a 27-yarder late in the first quarter and a 43-yard boot early in the second.
Spann scored on a three-yard run capping a 10-play, 93-yard drive. Then, after a short Akron punt giving them possession on the Zips 46, they scored again with Harnish finding junior wide receiver Willie Clark from seven yards out.
Just before halftime, the NIU defense got into the act as a pass from quarterback Patrick Nicely was deflected and into the hands of sophomore linebacker Devon Butler, who took it 26 yards for a touchdown, giving the Huskies a 29-7 halftime and effectively ending the competitive phase of the game
At the start of the third quarter, Allen gave the Zips fans something to cheer about as on the second play he rushed for a career best 74 yards to the NIU one. Two plays later, he finished the drive with his second one-yard touchdown of the game.
Allen, a senior from Youngstown, Ohio who was granted a sixth year of eligibility over the winter by the NCAA, was the lone spark of the Zips offense. He gained 99 yards on 14 carries.
For NIU, it was just like a bump in the road. They continued marching down the wet synthetic turf at will, scoring two more touchdowns in the third quarter as Harnish found Clark for a second time from 16-yards out and then connected on a 68-yard strike to junior wide receiver Nathan Palmer.
In the fourth quarter, with most of the second-team offense in the game, the Huskies completed the scoring as backup running back Ricky Crider scored from 20-yards out.
How bad of a night was it for UA? The Zips gained just 257 yards of total offense (183 if you take away the 74-yard run by Allen). Coming into the game, the offense had turned the ball over just twice, but the hosts threw two interceptions. One was returned for a touchdown. In the passing game, their longest completion of the contest was for 25 yards.
Defensively, the only time they forced NIU into a punt was on next-to-last possession of the game. The UA defense was also unable to force an NIU three-and-out.
I am disappointed in how we played and I know our team is disappointed in how they played. We need to learn from this, get ourselves back up off the ground, and get ready to play again next week.
NIU returns home to face Temple at Huskie Stadium while Akron takes the short trek to Kent State to battle the Golden Flashes.
OFFENSE: ALEX ALLEN-AKRON. The senior from Youngstown, Ohio led all rushers in the game with 99-yards including his 74-yard burst in the third quarter and scored two touchdowns his second multi-touchdown rushing game of the season. He had two in the 38-37 overtime home loss to Gardner-Webb
DEFENSE: JAKE COFFMAN & DEVON BUTLER-NORTHERN ILLINOIS. Coffman a fifth-year senior from German Valley, Illinois had just three tackles (two solo) but a sack. Butler a sophomore from Pembroke Pines, Florida took the deflection of a Patrick Nicely pass and returned it 26-yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter to effectively put the game out of reach
SPECIAL TEAMS: MICHAEL CLAMOVSKI-NORTHERN ILLINOIS. The senior from Willow Springs, Illinois (a transfer from the University of Illinois) was 3-for-3 on field goals and 5-for-5 on extra points.
NOTES: The game was the 11th lifetime meeting between the two schools with Northern Illinois holding a 7-4 advantage.It was the first game between the two schools in Akron since 2005 (48-42 Akron OT win at the Rubber Bowl)NIU is 9-16 all-time in MAC openers (5-9 since rejoining the conference in 1997) and 93-89-2 lifetime against MAC oppositionThe Zips are 3-6 lifetime at InfoCision Stadium (2-3 in MAC play)Akron is 8-11 in MAC season openers The 50 points allowed by Akron were the most at home since 2001 (62 to Eastern Michigan in a 65-62 3 OT win)Akron LB BRYAN WAGNER had 13 tackles in the game - the 10th time in his Zips career he has had 10 or more tackles in a gameAkron WR JEREMY LAFRANCE has at least one reception in 15 consecutive games and 16 of his 17 since joining the ZipsSaturday was homecoming at UA (Zips have now lost the last three homecoming games 0-2 in InfoCision Stadium)The game was the first ever meeting between Akron head coach Rob Ianello and NIU head man Jerry KillIanellos wife Denise was a star basketball player at NIU from 1987-91 and currently holds the school record for three-point percentageThe 2005 Akron football MAC Championship team had a reunion over the weekend and was honored at the end of the first quarter.