For the second straight week, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish put on a display of passing accuracy, while the Huskie defense shut down Temple’s potent rushing attack to power NIU to a 31-17 victory over the Owls Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
The win, Northern Illinois’ third straight, improved the Huskies’ record to 4-2 on the season, 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference. Temple fell to 4-2, 1-1.
In addition to Harnish’s 15-of-20 passing day, the Huskies got a 100-yard rushing day from tailback Chad Spann while Harnish added 71 yards on the ground to his 211 through the air. Harnish totaled 282 yards of total offense and threw for a pair of scores while Spann had a six-yard touchdown run to go with 24 carries for 100 yards on the ground.
Both head coaches acknowledged Harnish’s impact on the outcome of the game.
“The guy was spectacular today and the credit goes to him,” said Temple head coach Al Golden. “He ran the ball and he threw the ball well. He made a big difference in the game. We had some mistakes there on the quick pitch on the flat and the kid didn’t miss.”
Meanwhile, the Huskie defense stepped up in the second half, holding the Owls scoreless and limiting them to 122 yards of total offense after halftime. Northern Illinois got a key stop on Temple’s first drive of the second half. With the game tied at 17, Temple drove 55 yards to the NIU 25-yard line, aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which extended the drive. But Temple’s Brandon McManus missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Northern Illinois responded, driving 75 yards in 10 plays with Harnish hitting Nathan Palmer with a four-yard touchdown pass on third and goal. The extra point gave the Huskies a 24-17 lead with 4:15 left in the third quarter.
NIU extended the lead to 31-17 on its first drive of the fourth quarter with the combination of Spann and Harnish providing the final margin.
“It was a great day for these kids, they played hard,” Kill said. “They’re doing what we ask them to do. We made some mental errors and some things we overcame. I think that had a lot to do with the kids’ mental toughness and [their ability to come] back off adversity has gotten better.”
The first half was a case of Northern Illinois matching Temple score-for-score while controlling the ball. Overall, the Huskies held onto the ball for 38:10 in the game.
The game began inauspiciously for Northern Illinois as Spann fumbled on the first play of the game and Temple recovered at the Huskie 29-yard line. Two plays later, TU’s Matt Brown scored on a 25-yard run to put the Owls ahead 7-0 with just 30 seconds elapsed.
The Huskies then embarked on a methodical, 15-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 7:39 on the clock. Harnish completed all six of his passes on the drive. Freshman Akeem Daniels took the handoff from his receiver position and ran nine yards to the corner for the score.
Temple re-gained the lead on its next possession as the Owls drove 63 yards on 15 plays in 7:05 but could manage only a 33-yard field goal by Brandon McManus for a 10-7 advantage.
Once again Northern Illinois matched the Temple score with one of its own as Michael Cklamovski hit a 28-yard field goal with 5:55 to go in the second quarter.
After a 55-yard kickoff return, the Owls took the lead again when Chester Stewart hit Evan Rodriguez on a 31-yard touchdown pass. Temple’s drive took just three plays and 1:56 as TU went ahead 17-10.
Northern Illinois tied the score just before halftime as Harnish drove the Huskies 64 yards in 10 plays. Harnish hit Landon Cox for the 10-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left in the half. Cklamovski’s extra point tied the score at 17-17.
The Huskies dominated the first half stats and in the second half, turned the dominance into a 14-point victory over the MAC East favorites.
NIU returns to Huskie Stadium next Saturday in the second of three-straight home contests this October. Northern Illinois takes on Buffalo in the Huskies’ annual homecoming game beginning at 2:30 p.m. (Central). Tickets are available online at www.NIUHuskies.com and by calling 815-752-6800.
by Donna Turner, NIU Media Relations