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NIU falls to Badgers in Soldier Field showdown

September 19, 2011

Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 347 yards on 23-of-32 passing to lead the No. 7 Badgers to a 49-7 victory over Northern Illinois Saturday at Soldier Field before a crowd of 41,068.  Wisconsin improved to 3-0 on the season while the Huskies fell to 1-2.

While Wilson dominated on the offensive side of the ball, the Northern Illinois defense held Northern Illinois to 173 yards passing and just 64 yards on the ground while holding the Huskies to their lowest point total since Nov. 25, 2008.

NIU first-year head coach Dave Doeren, who spent the last five years as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Wisconsin, was complimentary of the Badgers’ play.

“My hat is off to Wisconsin,” he said.  “They got their guys in position to make plays in key situations.  We need to go get better.  Our kids fight hard, it is not an effort thing.  We dropped too many passes and played a little loose in some coverages.  We played to stop the run and I thought we did that early. We’ve got a nine-game schedule left and we’ve got to get better.”

Coach Dave Doeren and the NIU Huskies take the field Saturday in Chicago.

Coach Dave Doeren and the NIU Huskies take the field Saturday in Chicago.

Northern Illinois (1-2), played the Badgers tight in the first quarter.  After Wisconsin scored on a 12-yard pass from Wilson to Nick Toon, one of his five catches for 75 yards on the day, NIU tied the game on a three-yard run by Jasmin Hopkins. That score came with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter, after Huskie quarterback Chandler Harnish completed a 39-yard pass to Perez Ashford to the Wisconsin six-yard line.

On the ensuing Huskie kickoff, sophomore kicker Mathew Sims surprised UW with an onside kick that bounced off a pair of Badgers up front.  NIU’s Dominique Ware appeared to make the initial recovery, but UW’s Jacob Pedersen came up with the ball.

The Badgers responded with another Wilson to Toon touchdown, this one of 16 yards, to reclaim the lead, 14-7.  The Huskies were unable to cross the 50-yard line, but Ryan Neir’spunt was downed by NIU at the Wisconsin three-yard line.  UW then embarked on a 10-play, 97-yard drive that took 5:05 off the clock to claim a 21-7 lead with 8:53 to go in the half on Montee Ball’s one-yard run.  When Wisconsin added a score on James White’s 20-yard run to close out an 11-play, 77-yard drive, Wisconsin held a 28-7 halftime lead that proved to be insurmountable for the Huskies.

All told, the Big-10’s top-nationally ranked team accumulated 621 offensive yards, led by Wilson’s 384-yards of total offense (347 passing) and three touchdowns through the air. Wilson completed 71.8 percent of his passes (23-32) in the contest.

Jas Hopkins

Jas Hopkins

Harnish finished the game 14-of-24 passing with 164 yards through the air.  His favorite target was Perez Ashford, who caught six passes for 77 yards.

Wisconsin scored three touchdowns in the second half as the Huskie defense gamely fought. Sophomore defensive back finished with a career high 11 tackles in the game while defensive lineman Zach Anderson, a Ladysmith, Wisc. native, stopped a drive with his first career interception.

The best news of the day for Northern Illinois came between the first and second quarters when NIU announced that Dr. Kenneth and Ellen Chessick have made a $3 million gift to Northern Illinois Athletics that will name the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Indoor Facility.  The gift is the largest ever made to NIU Athletics and the second largest ever made to the university.

Northern Illinois closes out its non-conference schedule next Saturday at Huskie Stadium versus Cal-Poly with kickoff at 2:30 p.m.