Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 223 yards and two scores to lead the Huskies to a 37-7 victory over Akron at InfoCision Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
NIU won its seventh straight game to improve to 7-1 on the season, 4-0 in the Mid-American Conference, while Akron fell to 1-7, 0-4.
While Lynch directed the Huskie offensive machine, the NIU defense continued its dominance over MAC foes, holding Akron to just 199 yards of total offense on the day, including just 42 rushing yards on 37 carries. The Huskies recorded four sacks and 10 tackles for loss on the day.
“We won the line of scrimmage, that’s where it starts,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren, who improved to 18-4 in two seasons as the Huskies’ head coach. “We tackled well and our secondary covered well. Coach Niemann and Coach Nielsen had a good plan drawn up and the kids executed it.”
Doeren was not as pleased with the Huskies’ offensive execution, especially early, as NIU was held to four field goal attempts and just one touchdown through the first 28 minutes of play.
Kicker Mathew Sims made two of the four threes in the first half, including a 39-yarder with 6:16 in the first quarter to put the Huskies ahead 3-0. On NIU’s next drive, Lynch hit senior Martel Moore from nine-yards out to complete a four-play, 30-yard drive after Giorgio Bowers had given the Huskies the ball back by causing a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return.
The score remained 10-0 until 4:47 of the second quarter as Sims missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. After NIU defensive end Sean Progar forced a fumble at midfield, the Huskies drove to the Akron 14, where Sims hit from 31 yards to give NIU a 13-0 edge.
Akron responded with its lone touchdown of the game, which was set up by a 34-yard completion from Dalton Williams to L.T. Smith to the NIU four-yard line. From there, Williams hit Jerrod Dillard for the touchdown, the first scored on the Huskie defense in six quarters, and NIU’s lead was cut to 13-7 with 1:32 to play before halftime.
With Akron poised to take that momentum into halftime, the Huskie offense had other ideas. Lynch led NIU on a methodical drive, completing three passes for 29 yards to the Akron 28. After Akeem Daniels rushed for 10 yards and Lynch picked up three more, the junior quarterback made the play of the game by literally running over the Akron cornerback Avis Commack en route to the end zone. The play gave Northern Illinois a 20-7 lead and the halftime momentum was firmly on the Huskies’ side.
NIU started the second half by driving for Sims’ third field goal of the game. The junior hit from 29 yards at the 12:09 mark of the third quarter and the Huskies led 23-7.
Akron’s second quarter touchdown would be the only score of the game for the Zips as they turned the ball over three times in the game, including once on Demetrius Stone’s first interception of the season which stopped a UA drive in the third quarter.
“Anytime you can go on the road and get a victory, it’s something to be proud of,” Doeren said. “The way our team played on defense, to hold them under 200 yards in the game is quite an accomplishment against a good passing offense. We have a good defensive front and our linebackers play downhill and when you have a good front seven, you can do some things defensively.”
Northern Illinois put the ball in the end zone two more times to put the game away and allow the NIU second teamers to close out the game. With 1:30 to play in the third quarter, Lynch hit a wide-open Jason Schepler in the end zone for a 13-yard score. It was the senior’s first catch of the season, and first catch since 2010 after missing last year with a knee injury.
“We had two plays in specifically for Schep this week, but that wasn’t one of them,” joked Doeren. “I’m happy for him; he does so much for our run game that we wanted to get him in the end zone. ”
Lynch closed out the scoring with a nifty 35-yard run on fourth-and-two as he spun and then outran the Zips’ defenders to the end zone.
With the win, NIU’s seniors became the winningest class in school history with 36 victories. Their win surpassed the total compiled by the 2011 class.
Northern Illinois takes on Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27.