Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish threw for 187 yards on 18-of-21 passing and two touchdowns and ran for 118 yards and a score as Northern Illinois defeated Cal Poly, 47-30, Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
Senior running back Jasmin Hopkins added a career-high 143 yards rushing and two touchdowns as the Huskies raced out to a 27-0 lead and never looked back.
Northern Illinois won its 11th straight game at Huskie Stadium dating back to Sept. 26, 2009. The Huskies earned a season-high 355 yards rushing on 51 carries and totaled 542 total yards on the day.
“We want to be able to run the football and be a downhill team,” NIU head coach Dave Doeren said. “It makes Chandler’s job easier, when he has a run game, to be a passing quarterback. It keeps our defense off the field. When you run the ball and get off the field on third down, you’re going to be okay in that category. And we were today.”
Harnish’s three touchdowns accounted for Saturday gives him a school-record 67 in his career, passing the previous record of 65, set by Huskie great George Bork (1960-63). The senior from Indiana also moved into second place on the Huskies’ all-time passing yardage chart and needs just 194 yards to surpass Bork’s career record in that category.
NIU (2-2) scored on each of its six possessions in the first half, beginning with a 22-yard field goal by sophomore Mathew Sims less than three minutes into the contest. After the Huskie defense forced a three-and-out, NIU increased its advantage on a 10-yard touchdown run by Hopkins. The Huskies closed the scoring in the first quarter when Sims connected on a career-long 44-yard field goal.
Freshman Tommylee Lewis, in his first action of his NIU career, scored on a nine-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the second quarter and Harnish added a 29-yard scoring run as the Huskies opened up a 27-point cushion midway through the second quarter.
“At the beginning of the game through the first half, I was really proud of the way the defense started and did some things,” Doeren said. “They started with a three-and-out and a sack – that’s a big deal, to start off fast like that.”
Andre Broadous got Cal Poly (1-3) on the scoreboard with a two-yard touchdown run 5:39 before the half but the Huskies answered as Harnish connected with junior wide receiver Perez Ashford for a three-yard score with 31 seconds left in the second quarter, giving NIU a 34-7 lead at the intermission.
Ashford had a team-high four receptions for 47 yards as 10 different Huskies caught passes in the victory. As a team, NIU had 355 rushing yards.
The Mustangs cut the gap to 17 points, 34-17, with the only two touchdowns of the third quarter. David Mahr connected with Mark Rodgers on a halfback pass from 26 yards out and James Langford added a 33-yard field goal.
Cal Poly, a Football Championship Subdivision school, ran for 294 yards on 59 carries, Broadous was 5-of-10 through the air for 49 yards.
Redshirt freshman Tim Semisch got NIU on the board in the second half on a seven-yard reception from Harnish with 12:58 to play in the fourth quarter. Semisch’s touchdown – the first of his NIU career on the first catch of his career – gave the Huskies a 40-17 lead as NIU broke the 40-point barrier for the third time this season.
A pair of touchdown runs for the Mustangs were sandwiched around a 29-yard scoring run by Hopkins to create the final 17-point margin. NIU scored on eight of its 10 drives in the game.
Senior linebacker Pat Schiller led the Huskie defense with 11 tackles, including a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Northern Illinois begins Mid-American Conference play next Saturday as it travels to Central Michigan; kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT and the game will be shown on ESPN3.