Northern Illinois gained 697 yards of total offense, including 494 rushing yards, as the Huskies defeated Western Michigan, 51-22, on Saturday afternoon at Huskie Stadium.
The Broncos held a 15-13 lead at halftime before NIU outscored WMU 38-7 in the second half.
Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell) rushed for 229 yards on 14 carries and was also 14-of-27 passing for 203 yards. Harnish’s performance marked the 11th time in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history that a player has recorded 200 yards passing and rushing.
Northern Illinois’ 697 yards was the second-most in school history, behind only an 806-yard performance against Fresno State on Oct. 6, 1990.
Sophomore quarterback Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) gained 113 yards on 10 carries and senior running back Jasmin Hopkins (Stanley, N.C./East Gaston/Fort Scott CC) gained 91 yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns.
“At halftime, we got it together,” NIU head coach Dave Doeren said. “We were a touchdown team. We had a couple takeaways on defense. I’m proud of our offensive line. Any time you run for 494 yards, that’s a statement about your toughness. As a football team, we want to wear people down, play great defense, (and) be fresh in the fourth quarter. To have two QBs go over 100 yards rushing in a game was fun for me to see.”
Northern Illinois won its 13th straight game at Huskie Stadium to improve to 4-3 on the season, 2-1 in the MAC, while Western Michigan fell to 4-3, 2-1.
Trailing by eight, 15-7, midway through the second quarter, Northern Illinois trimmed the Western Michigan lead to just a pair, 15-13, on a pair of field goals by sophomore kicker Mathew Sims (Hannibal, Mo./Hannibal). Sims connected from 30 and 36 yards to help NIU close the gap prior to the intermission.
NIU received the second half kickoff and sophomore running back Akeem Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola) gave the Huskies the lead with a two-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the second half. The big play of the drive was a 45-yard run by Harnish with a personal foul, late hit penalty tacked on to the end of the run.
After the Northern Illinois defense forced a three-and-out, the Huskies increased their lead to eight, 23-15, courtesy of a 25-yard field goal by Sims.
Sims finished the day 3-of-4 on field goal attempts and was a perfect 6-of-6 on PATs.
With 4:36 remaining in the third quarter, Daniels scored again on an 8-yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 30-15 lead. The NIU scoring drive went 84 yards in just four plays, and included a 40-yard run by Harnish and a 24-yard scamper by Hopkins.
Junior safety Demetrius Stone (Miami, Fla./American Senior/Coffeyville CC) then intercepted Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder to setup the Huskie offense with a short field, beginning on the WMU 22-yard line. Four plays later, Hopkins scored from a yard out, giving the Huskies a 37-15 lead headed to the fourth quarter. NIU outscored Western Michigan 24-0 in the third quarter.
Hopkins scored again from a yard out just 2:15 into the fourth quarter and Lynch scored on a 66-yard run with 9:13 to play to close the scoring for NIU.
“I’ve been telling these guys all year `When you click on all three cylinders together at once, you are going to see something you haven’t seen yet’ and they did it,” Doeren said. “We’re an experienced team on offense. We’re a young team on defense. We’re young on special teams. It is going to take time to be who they want to be, but they understand the temperament, the demeanor, the expectations. To watch them lead each other today, it was fun.”
Senior wide receiver Nathan Palmer (Elkhart, Ind./Central) led the Huskies with seven catches for 89 yards. Senior linebacker Pat Schiller (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) recorded a team-best 10 tackles for NIU.
Western Michigan scored the only six points of the first quarter on field goals of 45 and 30 yards by John Potter.
NIU took its first lead of the contest, 7-6, with a 13-yard touchdown run by Hopkins, capping an 11-play, 90-yard drive 1:15 into the second quarter.
A safety and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Alex Carder to Chleb Ravenell gave the Broncos a 15-7 lead before the Huskies scored the next 44-straight points.
Carder threw for 194 yards on 25-of-43 passing and receiver Jordan White had 12 receptions for 98 yards for the Broncos.
Northern Illinois begins a three-game road trip next Saturday, Oct. 22, as the Huskies travel to Buffalo. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. and will be televised on ESPN Plus. The broadcast can also be seen on ESPN3.com.