Tuesday’s preview: Northern Illinois at Bowling Green
By Rick Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org November 7, 2011 5:58PM
Tommylee Lewis (80) returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Toledo during a game Nov. 1. The Northern Illinois return man became only the 13th player in FBS history to return two kicks for TDs in one game. | Jeremy Wadsworth~AP
Northern Illinois at Bowling Green
Where: Bowling Green, Ohio.
When: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Records: NIU 6-3, 4-1 MAC West; BG 4-5, 2-3 MAC East
Updated: December 9, 2011 8:18AM
Can they top last week’s 63-60 thriller at Toledo? Never say never.
Chandler Harnish and the Northern Illinois football team’s prolific offense return to Ohio for the second of three straight Tuesday games in front of a national television audience. NIU (6-3, 4-1 MAC West) plays at Bowling Green (4-5, 2-3 MAC East) at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN2.
“Their quarterback makes it all go,” wary Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said of Harnish, a fifth-year senior who was named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week Monday for the third time this season.
The honor came after Harnish passed for 265 yards and six touchdowns (2nd in NIU and MAC history) and ran for 133 more in last week’s offensive slugfest.
“(Harnish) can beat you with his arm, he can beat you with his feet,” Clawson continued. “He knows what he’s doing in the system. He is a very dynamic player.”
Northern is riding a four-game winning streak in which it has averaged 46.3 points per game. The Huskies have scored 40 or more points a school-record seven times.
“They’re very balanced. If you pack it in, they can get you with their jet sweeps and if you spread out with them, they can slice you up the middle,” Clawson said. “I don’t think there’s any surprise they were gonna be a very good offense this season, but the numbers they’re putting up are ridiculous.”
The Falcons have a young 4-2-5 defense that features two sophomores and three freshmen and is eighth in the Mid-American Conference in scoring defense, allowing 27 points per game.
“There was never a dull moment (in the Toledo game),” NIU coach Dave Doeren said. “Both teams really wanted it.”
He knows, however, this could be a trap game for the Huskies, who need to win out to insure themselves a return trip to the MAC Championship game in Detroit in December.
“Bowling Green is coming off a disappointing loss to Kent State, a game they think they should have won. And they’ve had 10 days to prepare for this, like we had 10 days to prepare for Toledo,” Doeren said. “And we’re coming off an emotional win.”
Sophomore quarterback Matt Schilz leads the Falcons and ranks fourth in the league in passing, averaging 255.7 yards per game. His two favorite targets, Kaman Jorden (59-776) and Eugene Cooper (50-628), have combined for 109 catches, 1,404 yards and 13 TDs. BG’s running game features two freshmen and a sophomore.
NIU freshman Tommylee Lewis, who opened the Toledo game with back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns of 100 and 95 yards, is only the 13th player in FBS history to return two kicks for TDs in one game. Not surprisingly, he was named MAC West Special Teams Player of the Week.
The last time
The last time Northern played at Bowling Green was Oct. 25, 2003. Both teams were ranked and the crew of ESPN’s GameDay broadcast its Saturday morning college football preview show from the campus, the first and only time a MAC school has been involved in a GameDay broadcast.
The Huskies were riding a seven-game winning streak and ranked 12th while the Falcons were ranked 23rd. Bowling Green pulled off the upset, claiming a 34-18 decision. The previous year, unranked Northern had upset the 20th-ranked Falcons and coach Urban Meyer 26-17 in DeKalb.