Spann has career game at Minnesota


Chad Spann had a career night, rushing for 223 yards.

By Chris Dertz

MINNEAPOLIS | There is an identity to Big Ten football that calls for smash mouth running and solid defense.

NIU’s running backs were completely ineffective last week against Illinois, but had a sensational bounce-back game Saturday night in a 34-23 win against Minnesota.

The Huskie tailbacks made NIU look like a Big Ten team, rushing for a combined 290 yards, led by senior Chad Spann.

The senior tailback was “Spann-tastic”, gaining a career-high 223 total yards on the ground with two touchdowns, and was able to gash the Golden Gopher defense consistently, averaging 14.9 yards per carry on 15 rushes.

It was the first 200-yard performance by an NIU (2-2) running back since Garrett Wolfe rushed for 203 yards in 2006 against Central Michigan. Spann’s 223 yards were also good for the 26th highest rushing total in school history.

The telling stat, however, was the fact that the NIU tailbacks were not stopped short of the line of scrimmage over the course of the entire game.

“I think it’s something we’ve emphasized, I feel like we were running the ball sideways a little bit more than we needed to [in previous weeks],” said NIU head coach Jerry Kill. “I think some of the things we did up front allowed us to get downhill. If you don’t get negative yards, you’ve got a chance to win a football game.”

While Kill made a lot of the size of Minnesota’s (1-3) defensive line, the guys up front were able to create gorge-sized holes for the Huskies’ backs.

“It was just great communication up front,” said center Scott Wedige. “We made the holes big initially, but [Spann ran] awesome today.”

Kill made sure to mention that quarterback Chandler Harnish’s running performances the past two weeks probably helped NIU’s tailbacks.

Chad Spann put solid bookends on his performance, opening NIU’s second drive with a 56-yard rush. Spann closed the game with a monstrous 61-yard touchdown steamroll.

“It’s always a good feeling when you have big holes to run through,” Spann said. “You’ve just got to go as fast as you can and stay away from the opposite-colored jersey. I just try to get as many yards as I can.”

Ricky Crider added a 30-yard rush, and Cameron Bell pitched in runs of 29 and seven yards. All three of the backs averaged over 10 yards per carry.

“I think all of our team was [pleased] to see Cameron Bell do some good things,” Kill said. “That’s a big back, I think we all know we need him. When you’re tackling 240 pounds, and then you sprinkle a little Spann in… we’re developing some things.”

What the team is developing, according to Spann, is improved blocking, both on the line and downfield. It’s clear this is giving them confidence on offense as they prepare to open MAC play at Akron next week.

“Everything is just really improved,” Spann said. “It’s making things a lot easier for me and Chandler.”