At Doyt Perry Stadium on Tuesday night, NIU bowled a perfect game over Bowling Green.
In a game where they may as well have counted their touchdowns like turkey strikes, the Huskies (7-3) scored a decisive 45-14 victory over the Falcons (4-6).
In the first few minutes, it appeared the stage was set for another MAC barn burner.
The Falcons scored on their first offensive play of the game on an 83-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Schilz to wide receiver Kamar Jordan. Yet it didn't take long for NIU to respond, as quarterback Chandler Harnish chucked a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Willie Clark.
Another 123-point game would not be in the cards though, as it was the play of NIU's defense that helped determine the outcome of the game, something NIU head coach Dave Doeren was very pleased about.
"I'm very pleased with our defense," Doeren said in a postgame radio interview. "I'm proud of the coaches. I'm proud of the players. A lot of people said bad things about them, and they played and executed very well tonight."
After the first two scores, NIU went on a lengthy drive and with the help of a personal foul penalty that gave it a first down after a Falcons' goal line stand, Jasmin Hopkins snuck into the end zone for his 13th touchdown of the year. With the score 17-7 NIU after a Matt Sims field goal, Harnish decided to take over.
While NIU's offense sputtered at times as it ran a full complement of jet sweeps and running back screens in the first quarter, Harnish, who gained 109 rushing yards in the first half and finished with 150 for the game, used his scrambling ability to put the Huskies in position to score on an Akeem Daniels short yardage touchdown.
Set to take a 24-7 lead at halftime, the Huskies defense allowed Jordan to make a couple of great catches that set up his 13 yard score before the half to put the Falcons behind 24-14. Schilz finally started to get into a rhythm on that drive, as constant hit and pressured by the NIU defense.
"Whenever you're hitting the quarterback like we were, that creates a lot of problems," Doeren said.
In the third quarter, neither NIU nor Bowling Green could get things going offensively. Late in the quarter, Daniels found daylight and scored on a 79 yard touchdown pass from Harnish to make the score 31-14.
There wasn't much to say about the Falcons offense, which only mustered 90 yards in the second half. Jordan finished with eight catches for 153 yards, and Bowling Green only turned the ball over once. The Falcons punted seven times and converted twice on 13 third down chances and were forced to go for it four times on fourth down. Bowling Green only converting once, as they were repeatedly held in check by the Huskies' defense.
Bowling Green's defense wore down from the constant ground and pound, and Harnish added to his two touchdown, 294 yard passing day with a five yard scoring scramble, putting the Huskies up 38-14.
"He played so hard," Doeren said. "He made things happen. The guy is a stud, and it's fun to watch him play."
NIU's offense gained 285 total yards rushing, and it kept the clock running in the fourth. The Falcons ran for only 79 yards on the ground.
"When you run for over 200, and you hold them under 100, you're going to win the game," Doeren said. "That's what I want the program to be; run the ball, stop the run, get the defense off the field and we did that."
After frustrating performances in the fourth quarter against Buffalo and a complete defensive breakdown against Toledo, Doeren said this was NIU's best road performance.
"We played a complete game for four quarters," Doeren said. "If you win three in a row on the road, I don't care what conference you're playing in, it says a lot about the mentality of your team. It was music to our ears."