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Kansas holds off NIU 45-42

Updated: September 14, 2011 10:03PM

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Northern Illinois senior quarterback Chandler Harnish just could not win the game alone.

That’s why the more-balanced Kansas Jayhawks beat the Huskies 45-42 on a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jordan Webb to junior receiver D.J. Beshears with nine seconds to play.

“Our guys played hard,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said. “We just didn’t play well enough at times. We’re just going to have to go back to our fundamentals. We got to leverage the ball better. We got to beat blocks and we got to tackle. We just weren’t able to get off the field enough after third downs.”

To his credit, Harnish tried. Oh, how he tried. He ran for three touchdowns, passed for two others and gained 404 yards of total offense, the most since quarterback Phil Horvath gained 477 against Toledo in 2005.

“[Chandler] was unbelievable tonight and our offensive line did a great job protecting him,” Doeren said.

But the Jayhawks (2-0) prevailed because their ball-handlers broke tackles all night and gained 534 yards of total offense to the jubilant approval of a Memorial Stadium crowd of 48,034.

NIU took a 42-38 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Jasmin Hopkins with 5:03 to play. But after Beshears ran back a kickoff 51 yards to give Kansas the ball at NIU’s 47, the Jayhawks used seven plays and all but nine seconds of the remaining time to rally for the win.

Tailback James Sims led Kansas with 110 rushing yards, Webb completed 21 of 30 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns and Beshears added 70 yards of receptions to go with his outstanding runbacks.

“It was on an all-purpose mesh route against their zone defense,” Jayhawks coach Turner Gill said of the winning touchdown. “Our offensive line gave Jordan time and he did a good job of finding D.J.”

The Huskies came in geared to stop the run and force the pass after Kansas had gained 301 rushing yards in its 42-24 season-opening win over McNeese State. But NIU could not stop KU from rushing for 253 yards and throwing for 281 yards.

KU was its worst enemy at times as two holding penalties nullified touchdown runs of 31 and 72 yards.

At the same time, NIU defenders failed to make tackles stick.

“Missed tackles were our biggest problem because there were a lot of them,” Doeren said.

Harnish ran for 89 yards and passed for 315.

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