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Harnish, Lewis claim MAC weekly honors

November 7, 2011
Tommylee Lewis

Tommylee Lewis

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell HS) and kickoff return specialist Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer HS) have been named the Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player and Specialist of the Week, respectively, the MAC Office announced Monday.

The Huskie duo was honored after leading Northern Illinois to a 63-60 victory over Toledo last Tuesday night in Toledo.

Lewis, a true freshman, etched his named in the Northern Illinois, MAC and NCAA record books in just his sixth career game by bringing NIU’s first two kickoff returns of the game back for touchdowns. He brought the game’s opening kickoff back 100 yards to tie the school record for longest scoring play and set the mark for longest kickoff return.

After Toledo scored, he got another chance and brought that ball back 95 yards for a score.

He set the Northern Illinois record for most kickoff return touchdowns in a game and tied the record for most kickoff return touchdowns in a season and in a career while becoming only the 13th player in NCAA FBS history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game.

Lewis also broke the record for most kickoff return yards in a game with 224 (on four returns), and highest kickoff return average in a single game (55.7 yards/return). Lewis now leads the MAC in kickoff returns with a season average of 31.8 yards/return.

Chandler Harnish

Chandler Harnish

Harnish earned the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week Award for the third time this season and for the eighth time in his career after throwing six touchdown passes, tied for the second-most in MAC and in NIU history, at Toledo.

Harnish hit Perez Ashford with the game-winning throw with 19 seconds left to cap of a 265-yard passing day on 17-of-26 completions.

He threw touchdown passes of 6, 71, 16, 19, 15 and 4 yards in the game while twice bringing NIU back from four-point deficits in the final eight minutes. In addition, Harnish ran the ball 16 times for 133 yards to account for 398 yards of total offense.

Already the school record-holder for total offense yards, Harnish surpassed the 10,000 yard mark for his career with his performance at Toledo.

He needs three touchdown passes to claim his eighth NIU school record and break the mark of 60 set from 1960-63 by Huskie legend and College Football Hall of Famer George Bork. The 100-yard rushing game at Toledo was the eighth of Harnish’s career; he is ranked in the top five in the league and 35th in the country in rushing on the year with 871 yards.

In addition to the MAC honor, named Harnish its Mid-American Conference Player of the Week for his performance versus Toledo.

Including Monday’s selections, Huskie players have earned five weekly awards from the MAC this year with Harnish also honored after the Army and Western Michigan games with the offensive award and senior defensive lineman Ron Newcomb picking up the MAC West Defensive Player of the Week nod following the Kent State game.

Harnish, Lewis and their Huskie teammates are back in action on the national stage Tuesday night when Northern Illinois (6-3, 4-1) takes on Bowling Green (4-5, 2-3) at 7 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2.

Northern Illinois then returns home to play Ball State on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU in the annual “Black Out” game where fans are asked to wear black.

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