See you in Detroit


Jerry Burnes, Northern Star

By Tony Osborne

A powerful defensive performance led the way for NIU football over Eastern Michigan.

The Huskies (9-3, 7-1 MAC) defeated the Eagles (6-6, 4-4 MAC) 18-12.

“It was a good, hard-nosed, hard fought football game,” said Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English.

NIU came into its senior day with a chance to clinch the MAC West division and a second straight appearance at the MAC Championship game at Ford Field in Detroit.

“Really, really excited to be going back to Detroit,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “Finally we can quit talking about it and just go back [to Detroit]. I’m really proud of the team fighting. It’s hard to win seven games in a row in college football.”

The Huskies scoring got underway in tricky fashion, with a fake hand off to senior running back Jasmin Hopkins, which left a wide open receiver in Willie Clark, who then scampered to the end zone for a 54 yard touchdown.

With a close game through the first quarter, NIU’s defense made a statement, holding the Eagle offense to -8 yards rushing.

“It’s a team game. I’m just so thankful we have those guys on the defensive side,” said NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish. “They really showed up today.”

That defensive prowess continued, when NIU punter Ryan Neir boomed a 54 yard punt, which was downed at the one yard line by Da’Ron Brown. From there, the NIU’s goal line defense stood strong, recording a safety, which was made by junior defensive end Sean Progar giving it some breathing room.

“I just go out there trying to make a play, do my job because i know the rest of the 10 guys on defense are going to do their job to get off the field,” Progar said.

The defensive line for NIU was giving Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett fits all day with constant pressure on the junior play caller.

In a game that featured little offense, the Huskies’ red zone defense was able to keep their lead out of reach, with two stops inside the 10 yard line. Each of which resulting in field goals and salvaging the Huskies’ small 12-6 lead late in the third quarter.

Just when the offense needed a big play, Harnish broke through the Eagles’ defense for a 68 yard touchdown, giving NIU a 18-6 lead after a failed two-point conversion.

Harnish broke the school record with the most touchdowns in a season on his 68 yard run, and has 34 touchdowns. Not too mention, Harnish’s senior day game was his 12th time eclipsing 100 yards in his career.

The Eagles, however, would not go quietly. With 3:30 seconds left of the clock, Eastern Michigan had a first down and the ball in NIU territory.

However, the NIU defensive’s sacked Gillett twice during that drive, leaving him to throw up a prayer on 4th down.

“Tip your hats to [our defense], they saved us today,” said NIU center Scott Wedige.

Demetrius Stone made a great play on the ball, slapping the ball out of the hands of the Eastern Michigan receiver.

With their seventh straight victory, following the loss at Central Michigan, the Huskies find themselves on their way back to Detroit, for some much needed vengeance of the MAC Championship game.

“We are going to be playing to raise the banner,” Doeren said. “It’s going to be fun. We’re really looking forward to it. It’s all about winning a championship.”