Huskies rout Army 49-26 in season opener

Harnish and Doeren celebrate
NIU QB Chandler Harnish and head coach Dave Doeren share congratulations after the Huskies 49-26 victory over Army in the 2011 season opener at Huskie Stadium.

Behind the offense’s 509 yards and Chandler Harnish’s five touchdowns through the air, the Northern Illinois Huskies defeated the Army Black Knights, 49-26. Head Coach Dave Doeren collected his first career victory at Northern Illinois in his first game at the helm.

“It was a great game for both sides of the ball,” said Doeren after the game, “one side came in and did their job, and the other followed suit. It was a great testament to our team.”

The Huskies got off to a fast start defensively, forcing the Black Knights to a three-and-out possession. On the ensuing punt, Jimmie Ward proverbially lit the Huskies cannon as he blocked Kolin Walk’s punt, allowing Courtney Stephen to collect the loose ball and return it for a 16-yard touchdown recovery.

Two series later Army would answer the call, capitalizing on a Huskie fumble with a touchdown run on an option pitch from Trent Steelman to Trenton Turrentine. Kicker Alex Carlton missed the following point after touchdown attempt and kept NIU in the lead, 7-6.

Northern Illinois would responded with touchdowns on the next four possessions, all of which had Harnish’s stamp on them with three in the air and another on the ground.

Doeren was very pleased with the way the team started the game and responded to Army’s offense. “You could not have asked for a better start to the game. With the blocked punt for a touchdown and the offense responding with four touchdowns after Army’s score, it doesn’t get any better that. You can’t ask for much more from your team.”

Harnish would finish the contest with a career-high five touchdowns in the air, the most by an NIU quarterback since 2005, on 12-for-19 passing and 195 yards. His longest completion of the day was a 58-yard screen pass to Jamal Womble, who evaded a trio of Army defenders to reach the end zone.

Jasmin Hopkins
Senior tailback Jas Hopkins rushed for a career-high 138 yards on 14 carries vs. Army.

The Huskies were also able to net 289 yards on the ground on 47 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. Jasmin Hopkins led the attack on 14 carries and 138 yards, including a long of 57 yards. The Stanley, N.C., native posted 82 yards in the first quarter on five carries.

Harnish added after the game, “The offensive line did a fantastic job tonight. Army packed the box and they did a great job of establishing the line of scrimmage.

Despite surrendering 303 yards to a mutually proficient rushing team, the defense was able to account for two fumble recoveries, an interception and eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 22 yards.

The Huskies improve to 1-0, while Army falls to 0-1. Northern Illinois will return to action next Saturday Sept. 10 for a contest at Kansas. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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