Huskies rout Toledo 65-30

By Etheria Modacure

The University of Toledo Rockets could have suspected the Northern Illinois University Huskies were going to come into their game running the ball.  The problem for the Rockets was they couldn’t stop the run, or the pass for that matter, as they lost 65-30 on Nov. 9, in front of 18,472 spectators at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

Before a national television audience, the Huskies dismantled the Rockets on the ground with an array of rushing from junior quarterback Chandler Harnish, senior tailback back Chad Spann and tailback Jasmin Hopkins.

The Huskies (8-2, 6-0 in MAC) and the Rockets (6-4, 5-1 in MAC) both came into the game with five-game winning streaks in the Mid-American Conference, while Northern Illinois was riding a six-game winning streak overall.

On the first drive of the game, the Huskies set the tone for the contest with a 7-minute, 40-second-long drive capped off by a one-yard run by Spann. This was the start of Toledo’s woes throughout the night. At halftime, they trailed 28-0.

“That’s what we wanted to do,” Huskies Head Coach Jerry Kill said after the game. “We did not want them to get off to a good start.”

The Rockets didn’t establish a rhythm with their offense throughout the game. Toledo didn’t adjust its defense to limit Harnish and Spann from running through its defenders.

When Toledo tried to bring in their safeties to limit the run, they were burned after the Huskies adjusted by making efficient passes. Harnish found Nathan Palmer for a 33-yard passing touchdown late in the second quarter. The score happened after the Huskies ran the ball five times and forced the Rockets into a face-mask penalty, which furnished them with an extra 15 yards.

Toledo Head Coach Tim Beckman said the Huskies were aggressive and took the Rockets out of their game.

“We didn’t tackle well on defense,” Beckman said. “We didn’t fit properly on a lot of the running schemes they were running.”

Harnish finished with 157 total yards on the ground and had a career best 69-yard run in the third quarter. He also had one rushing touchdown at the end of the second quarter, which was for 28 yards.

Spann rushed for 74 yards on 20 attempts and had three rushing touchdowns. Wide receiver Akeem Daniels scored on a 50-yard run midway through the third quarter and finished the game with 62 yards rushing.

The Huskies ran 54 times for a total of 422 yards throughout the game against Toledo. The Rockets’ rushing defense ranked third in the MAC giving up 116.3 yards per game.

Kill said the team has the offensive speed it needs and it showed in their game against the Rockets. He didn’t credit his coaching staff with the victory, but instead credited the athletes at Northern Illinois.

“Games are won by players, not coaches,” Kill said. “We’ve got some pretty good players right now who are playing well.”

The Huskies have now won seven consecutive games after losing 28-22 to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on Sept. 18. Northern Illinois beat the University of Minnesota the following week before reeling off six victories in conference play. The Huskies also beat MAC East division leading Temple University 31-17 on Oct. 9.

Northern Illinois was the top-rated scoring offense in the conference at 30.7 points per game before spanking the Rockets for 65 points. The Huskies’ only blemish was a missed extra point attempt after they scored in the fourth quarter.

Kill referred to his players’ belief in themselves and camaraderie as the biggest reason they have sustained consistency throughout the season.

“Our [players] are believing in each other,” Kill said. “When you believe and get a little confidence, things begin to fall in place.”

Harnish said the team’s ability to have a balanced offense has helped keep its opponents from focusing on one player. With the offense, defense and special teams contributing, the Huskies have put forth a competitive team in the MAC.

The Huskies scored 28 points in the third quarter to go ahead 56-23. Along with scores from Daniels and Spann, defensive back Tommy Davis scored on an 83-yard kickoff return.

“I think it goes to show [we put forth] a team effort,” Harnish said. “You can’t focus on one player. Once you focus on me, we’ll just have Chad run all over you. When you can throw the ball and then run, it’s tough to focus any one aspect of an offense.”

Northern Illinois has two games remaining this season, one against Ball State University and another against Eastern Michigan University on the road.

They are on track to finish with a MAC West division championship and a trip to Detroit to play in the MAC Championship game at Ford Field against the winner of the MAC East division on Dec. 3. It would be the Huskies first appearance since 2004.

For the Huskies to continue winning, Kill said the team must value what every individual should every day: To get better.

“If you want to be a championship team, you’ve got to get better every day,” Kill said.