Sophomore Tommy Davis intercepted a Hail Mary pass from North Dakota quarterback Jake Landry on the final play of the game, securing a 23-17 victory Sautrday for Northern Illinois in the Huskies’ home opener.
Northern Illinois improved to 1-1 on the year, while North Dakota fell to 0-2.
Junior quarterback Chandler Harnish rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown, and threw for 146 yards and a score. His rushing total was the most by an NIU quarterback since Stacey Robinson went for 308 yards against Fresno State in 1990.
Despite Harnish’s standout performance, NIU held just a two-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter. On the first play of the final period, Harnish ran straight up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown to give NIU a 23-14 lead. The Huskies would ride that score to victory.
Senior tailback Chad Spann started the scoring with a 79-yard touchdown burst on the opening play of the game, and finished the night with 140 yards on 21 carries. It was the first time two Huskies broke the 100-yard rushing mark since Spann and quarterback DeMarcus Grady did it against Eastern Michigan last season.
The Huskies added another first quarter touchdown when Harnish found Martel Moore in the endzone for Moore’s first career TD reception. The score boosted NIU’s lead to 13-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. The Huskies tacked on a 23-yard Matthew Sims field goal early in the second quarter to build a 16-0 lead.
A pair of big plays brought the Fighting Sioux back into the game. With 13 seconds left in the opening half, Dominique Hawkins intercepted Harnish and returned the pick 63 yards to the endzone and put North Dakota on the board for the first time this season.
The Sioux cut the margin to just two points as Greg Hardin caught an 85-yard touchdown pass from Jake Landry with 1:45 left in the third. Landry finished the night 18-of-31 passing for 267 yards.
Harnish’s score failed to quiet the Fighting Sioux. North Dakota’s Chris Anderson blocked a Josh Wilber punt with less than four minutes remaining. UND’s ensuing drive started on the NIU 31-yard line and resulted in a field goal that cut the margin to 23-17. Northern Illinois went three-and-out on their next drive, giving North Dakota the ball back on their own 38-yard line with 57 seconds left.
Landry completed 3-of-4 passes for 28 yards and scrambled for seven more to bring North Dakota to NIU’s 27-yard line with 11 seconds on the clock. An incomplete pass brought the clock to just six seconds before Davis picked off Landry’s final attempt to end the game.
The Huskies travel Saturday, Sept. 18, to Champaign to battle Illinois in the first of three straight road games. NIU returns home Saturday, Oct. 9, to face Temple.
For more information on NIU football and all Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.
NIU vs. North Dakota photo gallery.