NIU routs Army in Doeren’s debut
By Rick Armstrong email@example.com September 3, 2011 10:23PM
Updated: November 30, 2011 12:25AM
DEKALB — Northern Illinois was, in a word, dazzling Saturday night in Dave Doeren’s debut.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Chandler Harnish threw for 195 yards and a career-high five touchdown passes to five different receivers. Senior running back Jasmin Hopkins ran 14 times for 138 yards, and the Huskies handed their 39-year-old first-time head coach a 49-26 win over Army in front of 17,003 at Huskie Stadium.
“The three-and-out was as good as you can expect and the punt block and score electrified everything and got us going,” said Doeren. “We played loose and we played together.”
Northern, with a veteran offense that appears to be every bit as good as advertised and whose less experienced defense acquitted themselves well when the outcome was in doubt, won its first season opener since 2003. It was also the program’s first win over a service academy in four tries.
Harnish, who completed 12 of 19 passes with one interception, also ran 11 times for 80 yards and directed an attack that rolled up 509 yards.
“That’s a great day by (Harnish),” said Doeren. “He was moving the ball down the field and making things happen.”
The start was delayed for 10 minutes by lightning from a pregame thunderstorm, but the Huskies took little time to get on the board. Northern’s defense held Army’s triple option attack to a net of minus-1 yard on the first three plays of the game. Then, Huskie special teams standout Jimmie Ward went to work, blocking Kolin Walk’s punt on a fourth-and-11 from the Army 25.
Junior Courtney Stephen scooped up the ball and ran it in from 16 yards and the first of seven Matthew Sims’ extra-point kicks made it 7-0 just one minute, 17 seconds into the game.
It was the fourth career punt block for Ward, a sophomore playing in just his 15th game.
Harnish lost a fumble after marching his team 59 yards on its next possession and Army answered with a 63-yard scoring drive, capped by a 14-yard TD run from freshman running back Trenton Turrentine.
After that, nearly everything that could go right for the Huskies did go right as they closed out the half by scoring on four straight drives to take a 35-6 lead. Harnish threw TD passes of 13 yards to Luke Eakes, 19 to Nathan Palmer and six to Akeem Daniels before scoring himself on a 1-yard run.
Junior defensive end Alan Baxter came up with a key play late in the half, hitting Army QB Trent Steelman for a 4-yard loss on second-and-goal at the NIU 6 and forcing a fumble that Baxter recovered. He finished with 5½ tackles, three of them for losses.
The Huskies extended the lead to 49-6 in the third quarter with running back Jamal Womble scoring from 58 yards out on a screen pass and Martel Moore hauling in a 4-yard pass that was originally ruled a no catch but overturned on the first booth review of Doeren’s career. It was that kind of day.