The 23rd ranked NIU Huskies earned their 23rd consecutive Huskie Stadium victory on Saturday, defeating Akron 27-20 before a Homecoming, sellout crowd of 23,595.
The win set a new Mid-American Conference record for consecutive home victories, breaking a tie with Marshall (1997-2000).
NIU improved to 6-0 with the victory and the Huskies are 2-0 in the MAC, while Akron dropped to 1-6, 0-3 despite a game effort that stretched Northern Illinois to its limits.
“We’re real happy with the win,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey, who improved to 6-1 as the Huskies’ head coach. “We had opportunities out there offensively and we left them on the field. We weren’t executing offensively and obviously there are a bunch of things we have to get corrected.
“I was really, really happy with our defense,” he continued. “We’ve played good defense; they have the ability to carry us and today they did.”
The Huskies held Akron to just six points after the first quarter and 372 total yards in the game, the lowest total by a Huskie opponent this season. The NIU defense combined for nine pass breakups in the contest.
Akron struck first with a 9-play, 71-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Kyle Pohl connected with Mykel Traylor-Benn for 34 yards to put the Zips inside the NIU 10 and Jawon Chisholm finished off the drive with a touchdown from a yard out giving Akron the lead four minutes into the contest.
It took NIU less than a minute to answer, going 74 yards in six plays, using just 59 seconds off the clock. The big play of the drive was a 25-yard, Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) to Juwan Brescacin (Mississauga, Ont., Canada/Culver [Ind.] Academy) connection. Lynch capped the NIU drive with an 18-yard touchdown run as the Huskies evened the contest, 7-7.
Following a three-and-out by Akron, NIU took its first lead of the day on a 42-yard field goal by junior Tyler Wedel (McFarland, Wis./McFarland). The field goal capped an 8-play, 41-yard drive for the Huskies.
NIU increased its lead to 10 with 4:52 left in the first quarter on a 25-yard pass connection from Lynch to sophomore tight end Desroy Maxwell (Evanston, Ill./Amundsen). A 19-yard rush by junior Cameron Stingily (Romeoville, Ill./Romeoville) put the Huskies within striking distance at the Akron 25, but NIU faced a third-and-10 when Lynch found Maxwell for the score.
A pair of long pass receptions helped Akron pull back within three, 17-14. Pohl connected with Jerrod Dillard on the opening play of the drive for 42 yards. On the next play, Pohl hit L.T. Smith for 21 yards to the Huskie two-yard line. Three plays later Chisholm dove over the pile for his second score of the day as Akron cut into the NIU lead.
Defense dominated the second quarter as the Huskies and Zips combined for just 132 yards and seven punts. Neither team scored in the second quarter, the first scoreless quarter of the season for NIU, as the Huskies took a 17-14 lead into the locker room.
On its first possession of the second half, NIU pushed its lead back to 10. Junior wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer) went 16 yards on an end around on the second play of the drive, followed by a 40-yard Lynch to Lewis connection to move the Huskies into Zips territory.
Three plays later, Stingily finished the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run to give NIU a 24-14 lead.
Senior quarterback Lynch was 16-of-35 through the air for 220 yards and a touchdown. Lynch also had 15 carries for 83 yards and a score. Stingily had 21 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown in the contest. Lewis finished with a team-high six receptions for 58 yards.
Still leading by 10 early in the fourth quarter, senior safety Jimmie Ward (Mobile, Ala./C.F. Vigor) came up with the only turnover of the game, intercepting a Pohl pass along the sideline at the Akron 30-yard line. It was the fourth consecutive game with an interception for Ward.
The Huskies got down to the Akron three, but were forced to settle for a field goal from 21 yards out by Wedel to take a 27-14 lead with 11:19 to play in the fourth quarter.
With 5:27 left, Akron cashed in an 18-play, 75-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Pohl to Tyrell Goodman for the Zips’ only points of the final three quarters. The extra point was blocked and the Zips trimmed the Huskie lead to seven, 27-20.
Following a Huskie punt, Akron turned the ball over on downs as Ward had a pass breakup on fourth down, giving the ball back to NIU with three minutes to play.
After a Huskie field goal attempt was blocked, giving Akron one more chance with no timeouts left and 1:15 on the clock. The Zips got one first down, but then four straight incomplete passes gave the ball back to NIU and secured the Huskie victory.
The Huskies will return to action next Saturday, Oct. 19, as they travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich., to face Central Michigan. Game time against the Chippewas is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN3.