Huskies finish regular season undefeated


Freshman Jamaal Payton (33) makes a tackle on Western Michigan during Tuesday’s game. NIU won, 33-14.

By Brian Earle

Football made history in a number of ways with its 33-14 victory over Western Michigan at Huskie Stadium on Senior Night.

The Huskies (12-0, 8-0 MAC) finished the season with an unblemished record and went undefeated in the regular season for the first time as an FBS program.

With the win, the Huskies increased their winning streak to 12, extended their nation-leading home winning streak to 26 and upped their nation-leading conference winning streak to 27 games.

“Obviously the elements played a huge factor in the game,” said coach Rod Carey. “It was tough for both teams to throw and kick. I am really happy with the win, obviously. You run the ball like we did in those conditions and score the points that you have to, and then hats off to our defense. We had some guys out with injury, and we held them to just 14 points, so overall I’m really pleased.”

With it being Senior Night, it was only fitting that the Huskies were led to victory by redshirt senior quarterback Jordan Lynch in a record-breaking fashion.

“It was an emotional day,” Lynch said. “We had to try to control our emotions. I think we did a good job of that, and it’s just all the good memories and going undefeated at Huskie Stadium in all my years here; it was awesome. I feel like we sent our seniors out the right away with that win and going undefeated in the regular season.”

With 321 rushing yards on 27 carries, Lynch broke the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game — a record he set earlier this season with 316 rushing yards against Central Michigan.

“I always set high expectations for myself,” Lynch said. “I believe in myself, I believe in this team, and I knew coming into Northern Illinois that this program was on the rise, and I know the sky is the limit of what we can do.”

Lynch got the Huskies’ offense going on their second drive of the game. He hit freshman wide out Aregeros Turner for a 23-yard gain and moved the Huskies down to the 21-yard line following a 19-yard rush.

He found another hole on the next play and ran for 11 yards and followed that up with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Brescacin to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead.

The Broncos answered the Huskies’ touchdown with a 12-play, 63-yard drive, culminating in a Dareyon Chance 1-yard plunge into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.

From that point on, it was the Lynch show for the Huskies. With the windy and snowy conditions, he did all the work with his legs.

On the next drive, he ran the ball three times for gains of 19 yards, 15 yards and finally got into the end zone from 29 yards out to retake the lead 14-7. On the drive he totaled 63 yards on those three carries.

“He runs so hard and physical that we have to stay on our blocks,” said redshirt junior tight end Luke Eakes. “You never know when he’s going to break one for a long gain, like he always does, so we just gotta be prepared.”

The Huskies’ defense forced a quick three and out and got the Huskies the ball right back. Lynch orchestrated a 77-yard, five-play drive resulting in a 36-yard scamper by Lynch to give the Huskies a two touchdown lead, 20-7.

With the Broncos threatening to score right before the half, senior defensive end George Rainey blocked kicker Andrew Haldeman’s 37-yard field goal attempt.

Out of the half, the Broncos looked to gain some momentum and surprised the Huskies with an onside kick, which they recovered.

The Broncos failed to capitalize on their onside kick as senior safety Jimmie Ward broke up a pass on fourth down.

After a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Mathew Sims to increase the Huskies’ lead, 23-7, the Huskies’ defense came up with back-to-back stops.

Sophomore cornerback Paris Logan forced a fumble that freshman Jamaal Payton recovered. The Huskies were unable to take advantage of the turnover but pinned the Broncos at their 8-yard line.

The Broncos went three and out, which allowed the Huskies to start at the 37-yard line. One play was all Lynch would need, as he blew past the Broncos’ defense into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown of the game.

The Huskies will now look ahead to the MAC Championship in which they will matchup against the winner of Bowling Green and Buffalo.

“He’s a great player,” said WMU defensive lineman Travonte Boles. “He’s the best offensive player in our league… He’s going to lead his team and he’s going to get the job done.”