Updated: November 6, 2011 7:25PM
DEKALB – With George Bork, the school’s only College Football Hall of Famer looking on, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish turned in a performance for the ages Saturday in leading the Huskies to a 51-22 homecoming win over Western Michigan.
The fifth-year senior ran for 229 yards and passed for 203 more as the Huskie offense reeled off 44 straight points after spotting the Broncos a 15-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
It’s only the 11th time a quarterback has topped 200 in both categories in FBS history, according to the NCAA.
Northern piled up 697 yards of total offense, second only to the 806 the 1990 team had in a 73-18 win over nationally-ranked Fresno State and its 494-yard rushing total is the fourth most.
“When they break it, they break it,” said Broncos’ coach Bill Cubit, staring incredulously at the stat sheet, that showed it took Harnish only 14 carries to reach that 229 mark, the third best ever by a Huskie quarterback. “Two hundred twenty nine (yards)? That’s inexcusable. That kid’s a great player but we didn’t do a very good job.”
When Northern took possession with 38 seconds remaining in the first half, Harnish had run five times for 17 yards. He broke off a 29-yarder after faking to running back Jasmin Hopkins going wide, highlighting a 52-yard drive that led to one of three Mathew Sims field goals that allowed NIU to pull within 15-13 at the break.
“I told our offensive staff (at the half) I wanted to keep running that play until they stopped it,” said Doeren. “We did, and they didn’t stop it. We just changed the formations. It also says something about our wide receivers, you don’t break big runs like that without them blocking, too. ”
On three straight carries on three different third-quarter possessions, Harnish reeled off runs of 45, 51 and 40 yards that set up scores.
“The running backs and offensive line did a great job (blocking),” said Harnish. “If I could run faster, I could have scored some touchdowns.”
It allowed Jasmin Hopkins (14 carries, 91 yards) and Akeem Daniels (5-16) to clean up. Hopkins had three scoring runs and Daniels two.
Backup QB Jordan Lynch was equally effective on the play, running 10 times for 113 yards including a 66-yard scoring run.
Meanwhile, the defense was coming up with its best performance of the season. It held the Mid-American Conference’s leading passer, Western’s Alex Carder (279 yards-per-game) to 25 of 43 for 194 yards and one score with one interception.
Led by middle linebacker Pat Schiller (10 tackles, 1 sack for 11 yards), the defense sacked Carder four times and held the Broncos to just 16 total yards in the opening 12:34 of the third quarter when NIU put up 24 points.
“I think we were acting like we were better than we are (coming into the game),” said Carder, whose favorite target Jordan White was held under 100 yards receiving (12-98) for the first time in five games.
More importantly, the Huskies got back into the thick of the Mid-American Conference West race, climbing to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the league.
Western, which manhandled the Central Michigan team that handed NIU its lone league loss 44-14, fell to 4-3 and 2-1.
“I didn’t look at this as a statement game, I was thinking of it as a playoff game,” said Harnish. “We had to win today, whether it was by 30 points or 1 point.”
Bork, who quarterbacked the 1963 team that won a national college division title and was honored before the game, no doubt appreciated it along with most of the crowd of 20,277.