The Huskies' (3-3, 1-1 MAC) defensive play was a strong reason for the victory over Kent State (1-5, 0-2 MAC) on Saturday.
The 40-10 victory gave NIU its fifth 40-point game in six contests.
"We felt like we did not play up to our standards from the past three or four years," said NIU defensive tackle Ron Newcomb. "Being more physical was one of the big points this week. It was a great feeling and we did what we needed to do."
The defense dominated throughout the afternoon, only allowing 70 yards on 61 plays.
"[NIU's] defense played well," said Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell. "Their ends put pressure on our quarterback all day. We tried running the ball and we were just getting hit in the backfield."
The defensive front had a total of seven sacks and was able to hold the Kent State offense to seven rushing yards on 37 carries, and Huskies head coach Dave Doeren believes that everything starts with the fronts.
"Today our defensive line took charge, and that's what they have to do," Doeren said. "When your defensive line is in the backfield and they have lane integrity... good things are going to happen."
The Huskies got an early momentum boost from the defense early in the first quarter.
On an attempted screen play from the Golden Flashes, NIU defensive tackle Nabal Jefferson intercepted the pass and returned it 25 yards for the game's first score.
"I just reacted to the linemen blocking and I was there," Jefferson said. "[Getting the touchdown] was a pretty good feeling. I've never done that before so it felt good."
Huskies defensive end Sean Progar had a big game while consistently putting pressure on the quarterback with two sacks
"I give all the credit to my coach," Progar said. "He challenged me this week and told me I needed to step up for the defense and I knew I had to. It felt good but it wasn't just me. [The defensive line] played well the whole game.
The offense again had a slow start to the game with two straight three-and-outs, but the defense was able to force three turnovers to put the NIU in position to put points on the board.
Despite the large number of points put up by the Huskies, the offense had to settle for four Mathew Sims field goals.
"It goes to show that defense does win championships," said NIU starting quarterback Chandler Harnish. "Offensively we just got to score touchdowns rather than settle for field goals."
Harnish finished the game with 113 yards and a touchdown on 12 completions along with 65 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown.
Harnish feels the offense will get better as the season goes on.
"[The offense] is going to be playing with passion [next week]," Harnish said. "Now it's our turn. [The defense] did it for us today and we're going to come out next week and turn it around."