Story of the year for NIU sports


Northern Star File Photo

By Jimmy Johnson

Scott Wedige said it was a moment of disbelief.

After kicker Mathew Sims nailed a 33-yard game winning field goal, the long road back to Detroit for NIU football was over: the Huskies had clinched their first MAC Championship in nearly 30 years.

“The way coach Dave Doeren put it was best: it’s a moment that no one will ever take away from you when you’re on top of the world and you’re a champion,” Wedige said. “In that brief moment, it’s surreal. I wish everybody could get that in their life.”

NIU’s 20 point second half comeback in the MAC Championship over the Ohio Bobcats earned the Northern Star’s No. 1 story of 2011-12.

“[It was] probably one of the top moments of my life,” Wedige said.

Yet at halftime, when the Huskies and Bobcats made their way to their respective locker rooms, it looked as if the game might be something the Huskies would want to forget.

The scoreboard at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., read, “Ohio 20, NIU 0.”

“At halftime, everybody came in, and everybody was still unified,” Wedige said. “We always came from behind, all year long.”

Once the Huskies took the field for the second half, they didn’t want to end their season on a sour note, especially in the conference title game.

“We were focused,” said former NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish. “We didn’t want to end the season like that, on a bad note. We just pulled together.”

Harnish found wide receiver Nathan Palmer for a 39-yard touchdown pass halfway through the third quarter, cutting the Bobcats lead to 20-7.

The Huskies defense would hold Ohio’s offense in the second half, not allowing them to score.

In the fourth quarter, Harnish connected with Martel Moore for a 32-yard touchdown strike, and eventually, hookuped with Palmer for his second touchdown reception.

Later, with only seconds remaining in regulation, Sims’ kick passed through the uprights, and NIU finally tasted victory after years of heartbreak.

“We believed right from the start that we had a chance to win the game,” Harnish said. “We stuck to our plan.”