NIU follows yellow brick road to win over Kansas

By Matt Hopkinson

NIU football improved its home winning streak to 17 Saturday by defeating Kansas 30-23.

NIU (3-1) found success through timely, stifling defense, as well as a balanced attack on offense that wore down the defense of Kansas (1-3).

“To get back and play a team that we lost to last year and finish the game, which we didn’t do last year, shows growth out of our football team,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “I’m proud of the way we finish games around here. I think it says a lot about the leadership they have taken themselves on the field.”

After a Kansas field goal, NIU would respond with a touchdown. Its first drive was highlighted by a successful fourth down conversion on a run by junior running back Leighton Settle. This allowed the drive to continue and ultimately close with an eight yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver TommyLee Lewis, although senior kicker Mathew Sims would miss the extra point.

Kansas found success in the first half and part of the third quarter running the ball, especially through the wildcat formation.

“Watching tape, they really struggled in the run game against Army last week,” said Kansas head coach Charlie Weis. “We have wildcat available to us and we just felt it was going to give us a chance to move the ball.”

The difference came in the fourth quarter; however, as the quarter started off as poorly as it could have for NIU.

Just 27 seconds into the quarter, junior quarterback Jordan Lynch threw an interception which Tyler Patmon of Kansas took the other way for a 54 yard touchdown. This put the Jayhawks up by 10 and in the driver seat.

Following the extra point and the kickoff, Lynch and the rest of his offense came back on the field to answer immediately with an unlikely play. Lynch fumbled the shotgun snap in his hands and faked a run up the middle, only to stop in mid-motion to throw a chest pass to senior receiver Martel Moore, who took it through open field for 65 yards to bring NIU back within three.

On the ensuing drive for Kansas following the Moore touchdown, the Jayhawks found themselves at NIU’s 22 yard line after several big plays. The Huskies followed with three big plays of their own, stuffing a run attempt, forcing an incompletion and a sack by junior defensive end Joe Windsor for a loss of six.

“Anybody’s number can be called at any time,” Windsor said. “Whenever coach puts me in, I’m ready to do whatever he needs me to do.”

The Huskies made good on the turnover on downs, marching down into field goal territory, as Sims found atonement for his missed point after attempt in the form of a 44-yard field goal to tie the game at 23.

NIU would add another touchdown by Settle in the fourth quarter before the defense took over the game.

Alan Baxter and Windsor both finished with two sacks a piece, all coming at big times to either force third and long or fourth and long.

“When you can finish a game being the most physical team on the field, you’re going to win a lot of games,” Doeren said. “That was the first thing I challenged the team on last Sunday. I said the most physical team in Huskie stadium will win the game and we were.”