Rushing Huskies down WIU team Dach, Robinson run wild in 34-27 clash

By Thom Gippert

Adam Dach had a good night running the football. Stacey Robinson had a great night.

Dach and Robinson combined for four touchdowns as NIU, now 3-1, defeated Western Illinois University 34-27 in front of 22,365 fans Saturday night.

Robinson, the junior quarterback, rushed for 228 yards and scampered for two touchdowns in leading the potent wishbone attack for the Huskies. Dach, the impressive fullback, gained 107 yards rushing on 14 carries.

The Huskies took the opening kickoff and swiftly marched the ball 72 yards on seven plays as Dach plowed in from two yards to give NIU a 7-0 lead.

On WIU’s first offensive play from scrimmage, WIU quarterback Gene Benhart hit tight end Pablo Luis, but the ball was knocked loose and recovered by NIU’s Patrick Bryant.

That turnover led to a 19-yard touchdown run by Robinson and NIU quickly jumped out to 14-0 lead in the first five minutes of the contest.

WIU’s offense came alive on its next possession. Benhart completed six passes in driving the Leatherneck offense into the end zone. Benhart hooked up with wide receiver Steve Williams on a seven-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-7.

In the second quarter, NIU kicker John Ivanic booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Huskies a 17-7 advantage, but WIU’s passing game struck again later in the period.

On a big fourth down and four from the Huskie 36 yard line, WIU went to the air again as Benhart connected with Luis for a touchdown to bring the Leathernecks within three 17-14.

With 35 seconds left in the half, Ivanic gave the Huskies a 20-14 lead as he notched a 23 yard field goal.

WIU, the 17th rated Division I-AA team in the country, put the pressure on NIU early in the second half when WIU kicker Layne Bennett nailed a 36-yard field goal to pull WIU within three once again 20-17.

From there on in for the Huskies it was the Dach and Robinson show.

In the middle of the third quarter, Dach charged his way in for a 39-yard touchdown to put the Huskies up 27-17. On the run, Dach received a terrific block from halfback Mike Strasser that enabled Dach to go in for the score.

“Mike had one of the finest blocks by a running back I’ve seen since I’ve been at Northern,” said NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone.

NIU rounded out its scoring when Robinson kept the ball on the option and ran for 34 yards for his second touchdown of the night to give the Huskies a 34-17 lead.

WIU came back strong in the fourth quarter, however. After a Bennett field goal, Benhart hit pay dirt again when Williams made a nine-yard touchdown reception with 2:05 left in the game to bring the Leathernecks within seven, 34-27.

One of the strong points for the Huskies was the defensive line. WIU gained only eight yards rushing and the defensive line and linebackers for NIU were responsible for clogging up any holes the Leathernecks tried to run through. The Huskies also recorded four sacks with defensive end Cary Caliendo collecting two. Missing from the Huskie line-up was senior tackle Ted Hennings. Hennings sat out the game with a one game suspension for disciplinary reasons.

Another bright spot for the Huskies was the offensive line that paved the way for 407 rushing yards. Coach Pettibone singled out the play of back-up center Mike Westrick, as the sophomore was called into action when starter Eric Wenckowski went down with a hip-pointer.

WIU head coach Bruce Craddock came away impressed with the play of NIU.

“Northern has such a dynamic offense. You’re going to have to score 40 points to beat them. They’ve got a nice football team, they could beat a lot of people in the country,” Craddock said.

Craddock, who is battling stomach cancer, was presented a study bible by the NIU administration after the game. In the bible were inscriptions by Pettibone, team captains and head basketball coach Jim Molinari.