Sophomore kicker Mathew Sims made a 34-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining to lift Northern Illinois to a 41-38 victory over Ball State Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium.
The Huskies rallied from a 17-point third quarter deficit to earn their sixth consecutive win and their 14th-straight Huskie Stadium victory.
Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish set a school record with 519 yards of total offense; 181 yards on 28 carries with a rushing touchdown and 26-of-36 through the air for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Huskies totaled 710 yards – the second highest total in NIU history, and had a school-record 43 first downs in the game as NIU tallied more first downs than points in the contest.
“I went up and down the sideline when we were down by 17. I said, ‘Hey, we’ve been here before. Everyone just keep doing what you’re doing, have faith and we’re going to win.’ Guys had to make plays and everyone made plays,” NIU head coach Dave Doeren said.
Northern Illinois outscored Ball State 27-7 in the final quarter and a half to improve to 8-3 overall, 6-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
The Huskies will wrap up the regular season next Friday, Nov. 25, at home against Eastern Michigan. Game time has been set for 10 a.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
With a win against the Eagles, NIU would clinch the MAC West Division and a trip to the MAC Championship game Friday, Dec. 2, in Detroit.
Ahead 24-14 at halftime, Ball State opened the scoring in the second half as Keith Wenning found Jack Tomlinson from three yards out to cap an 87-yard drive and give the Cardinals a 31-14 lead with 9:19 to play in the third quarter.
NIU responded immediately as Harnish went 49 yards up the middle to cut the Ball State lead back to 10. The Huskies needed just 52 seconds to go 60 yards in three plays for the score.
The Cardinal punt on the ensuing drive was downed at the NIU eight, leaving the Huskies 92 yards from the end zone.
NIU marched the length of the field in 10 plays and 3:47; senior running back Jasmin Hopkins scored from 11 yards out to pull the Huskies within three, 31-28, with 3:16 to play in the third quarter.
Hopkins had 122 rushing yards on 18 carries with a pair of touchdowns in the contest.
Northern Illinois took its first lead of the night less than a minute into the fourth quarter when Harnish connected with senior wide receiver Nathan Palmer for a 27-yard score.
Harnish swung the ball out to Palmer who eluded a defender and scampered down the sideline to give NIU a 35-31 lead.
Palmer finished with a game-high eight receptions for 95 yards.
Ball State regained the lead with 11 minutes to play on a seven-yard touchdown run by Dwayne Donigan to put the Cardinals on top 38-35.
After the two teams traded punts, NIU used 4:41 to go 74 yards in 12 plays, tying the game with a 23-yard Sims field goal with just 2:46 remaining.
Ball State gained one first down before punting the ball back to the Huskies with 1:44 on the clock.
NIU started on its own 20-yard line and quickly reached midfield as Harnish gained 13 on the ground and then found junior receiver Perez Ashford for 17 on the first two plays of the drive. After working their way down to the Ball State 35, Harnish connected with junior receiver Martel Moore for 11 yards and before hitting Palmer for seven yards to the Ball State 17 with 11 seconds to play.
NIU brought out the field goal unit and, after a Ball State timeout, Sims drilled a 34-yard field goal to give the Huskies the 41-38 victory.
The kick was the first-ever game-winning field goal, at any level, for the sophomore from Hannibal, Mo.
The Cardinals jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Ball State marched 85 yards on its first drive of the game, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Wenning. NIU moved inside the Ball State 10-yard line but Harnish was hit and fumbled, Joshua Howard scooped up the loose ball and went 92 yards the other way to give Ball State the two touchdown advantage.
NIU got on the board 1:12 into the second quarter when Harnish hooked-up with Moore from 15 yards out. Moore caught six passes for 120 yards and a score.
The Huskies then tied the game with a 10-play, 90-yard drive, culminated by a three-yard Hopkins score.
Ball State scored the final 10 points of the first half, Wenning connected with Jamill Smith on a 38-yard touchdown pass and Steven Schott made a 40-yard field goal to give the Cardinals a 24-14 lead at the half.
Wenning threw for 245 yards on 23-of-43 passing with two touchdowns.
Northern Illinois claimed the Bronze Stalk in the annual trophy game between the schools.