Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel HS) and running back Leighton Settle (Madison, Wis./Madison West HS) powered the Huskies (1-1) to a 35-7 win over UT Martin Saturday night at Huskie Stadium.
The duo combined for 166 rushing yards on 32 carries for three touchdowns as both averaged over five yards per carry against the Skyhawks (1-1) for NIU’s first win of the 2012 campaign.
After a tough loss at Soldier Field against Iowa last weekend, Lynch and the Huskies put on an impressive display in front of the hometown crowd as NIU won its 16th straight game at Huskie Stadium, dating back to 2009. UT Martin was coming off its first victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) foe after defeating Memphis the previous week but went just one-of-four inside the red zone against NIU.
Lynch put together his best career passing day, establishing career highs of 19 completions, 25 attempts and 214 yards. The redshirt junior threw for a TD as well, connecting on a 31-yard pass down the middle to senior wide receiver Martel Moore (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren HS) to put NIU up 14-0 with 14:55 left in the second quarter after forcing the Skyhawks into a three-and-out.
The only blemish on the day was his first career interception. Lynch also added 60 yards on 11 carries on the ground, and finished with three rushing scores.
“Obviously I’m happy with the victory,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “I thought our guys played hard. I’m proud of the balance we had on offense. Jordan Lynch played really well. He was precise with his passes. He did what we knew he could do.”
Despite three Lynch TDs, the ground attack was anchored by Settle, who rushed 21 times for 106 yards to notch his first career 100-yard game.
“Leighton had a great week at practice,” Doeren said. “I knew he would come out and play well. He ran hard and the offensive line did a good job of opening up holes.”
The Huskie defense made several key stops and plays to hold UTM to just one touchdown, which came early in the fourth quarter. The first big stand came after a 13-play, 66-yard drive that took over five minutes of clock time in the first quarter. The Skyhawks worked the ball to the Huskie nine-yard line, but NIU’s defense stood tall forcing a 21-yard field goal attempt by Cody Sandlin that sailed wide right.
The second impactful play for the defense came after Lynch’s interception.
The Skyhawks drove to the NIU redzone again and had first-and-goal from the NIU 10-yard line. Once again, the Huskies were up to the challenge, only giving up one more yard to force another short field goal. This time, the UTM snap for a 27-yard field was botched and Tyrone Clark (St. Louis, Mo./Mehlville HS) recovered.
Lynch then guided the Huskies on a 15-play, 83-yard drive that lasted over 5:30 and scored on a one-yard run. The score put NIU ahead 21-0 with 3:51 left in the first half, and the Huskies didn’t look back.
In the second half, Lynch added a pair of rushing scores – breaking free on a 32-yard run up the middle and powering for a four-yard score.
Defensively, safety Jimmie Ward led NIU with 10 tackles, two pass break-ups and an interception, the Huskies’ first of the season. Northern Illinois held UTM to 63 rushing yards on 33 attempts. UTM receiver Quentin Sims caught 10 passes for 152 yards in the game, but was held to 46 receiving yards on five catches in the second half.
Next up for the Huskies is their first road game of the season as they travel Saturday, Sept. 15, to West Point, N.Y., to take on Army. The 11 a.m. (CT) game will air on the CBS Sports Network.