In what turned into a wintry affair in Ypsilanti, NIU football turned in a winning effort to set a regular season record for wins.
The Huskies (11-1, 8-0 MAC) produced a solid trouncing over the Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-10, 1-7 MAC), led by Heisman candidate junior quarterback Jordan Lynch, junior running back Akeem Daniels and senior receiver Martel Moore.
Lynch produced his 10th straight 100-yard rushing game and combined his passing and rushing to add 287 more yards onto his season total. His 43-yard passing touchdown tied him for the most touchdowns in a single season with the mark set by Chandler Harnish last season of 39.
The touchdown also gave Moore a tie for second all-time in NIU touchdown receptions with 22 and his 116 yards receiving pushed him over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.
Daniels was the biggest factor for NIU on the day, as the running back rushed for 112 yards and scored four touchdowns. Daniels became the first Huskie to scramble to the endzone that many times in one game since Garrett Wolfe in 2006.
“It means a lot to be a part of history,” said NIU coach Dave Doeren in a news conference. “Anytime you do something that has never been done, that’s pretty special. The guys did a nice job executing today. We tried to get some guys some numbers, especially Martel with the 1,000-yard season. That’s pretty rare around here.”
The game was close only for a brief moment as after Daniels’ first touchdown run of 25 yards with 5:13 off the clock, the Eagles marched 82 yards downfield to score on a 20-yard pass play from redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Benz to senior fullback Matt Boyd.
The Huskies would answer promptly and with a bit of fireworks as sophomore jack of all trades TommyLee Lewis returned the ensuing Eastern Michigan kick-off 93 yards to make the score 14-7. It was the third return touchdown of Lewis’ career, giving him the most in NIU history.
“We scored, really, with about nine minutes left in the first quarter and we didn’t score another point,” said Eastern Michigan coach Ron English in a news conference. “That’s unjustifiable in my opinion, because everyone in our conference scores points.”
The Eagles were held down all day offensively, specifically throughout the second and third quarter, where they were able to muster only 116 yards total.
NIU’s defense held the Eagles under 100 yards rushing on the game, and only allowed 133 passing yards.
“I just think that in my time in the conference, that’s the best Northern defense they have had,” English said in a news conference. “I thought we were running it decently early. I think everything changes guys when you don’t score points. It doesn’t matter how you run it or throw it, if you don’t score, it changes everything.”
After the kick-off return of Lewis, it was open field for Daniels as he rushed for three more touchdowns throughout the game, one coming before the 43-yard touchdown by Moore that gave the Huskies a 28-7 halftime lead. Daniels scored his other two in the second half, with the final tally of the contest scored by freshman wide receiver Jacob Brinlee, an 11-yard run that clocked in with 1:23 left to play.
“I’m really happy for Akeem,” Doeren said in a news conference. “He’s been getting better all year. He’s been doing a lot of unselfish things - blocking for Jordan, and in our protection schemes—so to see him run like that and get in the end zone four times was great.”