Northern Illinois played what NIU head coach Dave Doeren called its “most complete road game” of the season to defeat Bowling Green, 45-14, Tuesday night and win its fifth consecutive game.
With the win, the Huskies improved to 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the Mid-American Conference while Bowling Green fell to 4-6, 2-4.
A week after giving up 60 points in a win over Toledo, the Northern Illinois defense shut out Bowling Green in the second half while giving up just 90 yards. The Huskies outscored BG 21-0 in the second half to claim the runaway win, its third straight MAC road win.
“This was our best performance on the road,” Doeren said. “We played a complete game for four quarters. If you win three in a row on the road, I don’t care what conference you’re playing in, it says a lot about the mentality of your team.”
Offensively, the Huskies were led by senior quarterback Chandler Harnish, who tallied 445 yards of total offense as he rushed for 151 yards on 17 carries and threw for 294 yards on 16-of-26 passing. Harnish’s total ranks third all-time at NIU and is his second-highest single-game performance of the season. He threw for a pair of touchdowns – on throws of 56 and 79 yards – and scored on a five-yard run.
The Huskies ran for 283 yards on 52 carries and garnered 623 yards of total offense on 80 plays, averaging 7.8 yards per play. The NIU offensive line did not allow a quarterback sack for the fifth straight game. Bowling Green, meanwhile, had just 79 rushing yards in the game.
“When you run for more than 200 yards and they are under 100 yards, you are going to win,” Doeren said. “I thought Chandler played so hard. Some of the runs he created on his own. The guy is a stud and he is playing at such a high level right now that it is fun to watch.”
Harnish went over 1,000 rushing yards for the season to become the first Northern Illinois quarterback since Stacey Robinson in 1990 to surpass the 1,000 yard mark. He leads NIU with 1,022 rushing yards on the season and the Huskies have had a player reach the century mark on the ground in 12 of the last 13 seasons. The 100-yard rushing game was Harnish’s fourth of the season and ninth of his career.
Leading 24-14 at halftime, the teams jostled for field position and traded punts most of the third quarter until Harnish and the Huskies got the ball on their own 21 with 5:12 left in the period. On the first play of the drive, Harnish hit Akeem Daniels perfectly in stride on the wheel route and the speedy tailback went 79 yards for NIU’s longest passing touchdown of the year.
The Huskie defense forced a three-and-out and Northern Illinois drove 68 yards in 13 plays and 5:51 to take a 38-14 lead with 12:07 left to play, and end Harnish’s night. Back-up quarterback Jordan Lynch threw his first touchdown pass of the season – a 37-yard throw to Willie Clark – to end NIU’s next drive and provide the final score.
Clark caught a pair of touchdown passes in the game and finished with a career-high 109 yards on four catches. Daniels also scored twice, adding a two-yard touchdown run to his 79-yard reception.
The game began poorly for Northern Illinois as Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz hit Kamar Jorden who split the defense in the middle of the field and ran 83 yards for a touchdown. Just like a week ago at Toledo, the Huskie offense responded. On NIU’s second offensive play, Harnish hit Clark for a 56-yard score and one minute into the game, the score was tied at 7.
Following the explosive start, the rest of the half followed a more traditional rhythm. Northern Illinois ground out a 13-play, 63-yard drive that consumed 5:46 and took a 14-7 lead on a one-yard run by Jasmin Hopkins. The Huskies extended their lead to 17-7 early in the second quarter as Mathew Sims’ 23-yard field goal concluded a 10-play, 64-yard drive.
The Huskie defense stopped Bowling Green on fourth and five from the Huskie 28 to stop BG’s next drive, and the team’s punted on each of the next four drives. Harnish used his legs to set up Northern Illinois’ next score as he ran for 51 yards on a seven-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in Daniels’ two-yard touchdown run.
Bowling Green responded, using the two-minute drill to perfection to drive 64 yards in eight plays and 1:04 to close the Huskies’ lead to 24-14 at the half.
Northern Illinois plays Ball State next Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium in the team’s annual “Blackout” game. The game, which will be broadcast on ESPNU, kicks off at 7 p.m.