Following Northern Illinois’ second win over a Big Ten Conference program in two years, Northern Illinois tailback Chad Spann and defensive back Jimmie Ward have been honored by the Mid-American Conference as the MAC West Offensive and Specialist of the Week, respectively, the league announced Monday.
Spann was named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-best 223 yards on 15 carries Saturday at Minnesota in NIU’s 34-23 victory.
The senior from Indianapolis, Ind. averaged 14.9 yards per carry and scored a pair of touchdowns, including one on a 61-yard run in the fourth quarter. He also had a run of 56 yards in the first quarter to set up Northern Illinois’ first touchdown, and added a 33-yard jaunt in the second period. He tallied the first 200-plus yard game by a Huskie running back since Garrett Wolfe ran for 203 versus Central Michigan in 2006. Spann leads the MAC with 114.5 yards per game and on Sunday was named the Walter Camp FBS Offensive Player of the Week.
Ward, a true freshman from Mobile, Ala., made one of the most critical plays in the Minnesota game when he broke through to block a Gopher punt with 1:22 left in the first half to give Northern Illinois the ball on the UM 11-yard line.
The Huskies scored the go-ahead touchdown three plays later to take a 20-13 halftime lead and never trailed again in the game. Ward pressured the punter on two other occasions and narrowly missed a block later in the game. He also contributed three solo tackles on kickoff and punt coverage. Ward’s punt block was NIU’s first of 2010, and seventh in three seasons under head coach Jerry Kill.
Spann earned the third MAC Player of the Week honor of his career as he was honored following the Akron and Eastern Michigan games during the 2009 season. Ward is the second straight Huskie player to be named the MAC West Specialist of the Week this season; punter Josh Wilber picked up the recognition Sept. 20 following the Illinois game.
Northern Illinois (2-2, 0-0) opens Mid-American Conference play at 5 p.m. Saturday with a game at Akron (0-4, 0-0) before returning home for a three-game October homestand beginning Oct. 9 versus Temple. The Huskies will take on Buffalo at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, on Homecoming Weekend, and will play host to Central Michigan at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, on Hall of Fame Weekend.