Huskies are victorious in home opener against North Dakota


NIU running back Chad Spann broke off a 79-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in Saturday’s 23-17 win.

By Jimmy Johnson

DeKALB | It appeared NIU was going to have its way with North Dakota Saturday night after its first play from scrimmage.

Huskies running back Chad Spann bumped off multiple Fighting Sioux defenders and rolled his way 79 yards to the end zone and all signs pointed to the Huskies being on their way to an easy home-opener victory.

Little did both sides and the 18,046 in attendance know that the game would go down to the wire.

NIU squeaked its way past North Dakota, 23-17 as Huskies safety Tommy Davis picked off Fighting Sioux quarterback Jake Landry’s last-effort throw to win the game from the Huskies 27-yard line.

NIU head coach Jerry Kill gave Chandler Harnish the nod at quarterback, and he took full advantage of his first start of the season.

Harnish was vital in orchestrating the Huskie offense to 510 total yards.

NIU’s game plan to use the quarterback option worked brilliantly as Harnish and Spann ran for 331 total rushing yards and two touchdowns.

“[This was] the best that I’d seen [Chandler Harnish] run the ball since I’ve been here by far,” Kill said. “And he ran the way I wanted him to run.”

Harnish made one major mistake right before the conclusion of the first half, which to an extent, altered the tempo of the game.

Fighting Sioux cornerback Dominique Hawkins picked off Harnish and went 63 yards the other way to put North Dakota on the score board, 16-7.

“He made one bad decision,” Kill said. “But I can promise you at this table that he’ll never look down the field [and] look off and try to throw the deep-out ever again in his career.”

The kicking game for NIU continued to raise reason for concern as kicker Matthew Sims missed on a point after and got a 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked while fighting Sioux defenders managed to block a Josh Wilber punt in the fourth quarter.

“We work too darn hard and too dang long [to have that happen on special teams],” Kill said.

NIU’s defense stood tall early in the first quarter when Sioux running back Josh Murray attempted a head-first dive into the end zone where he was brutally met by Huskie’s safety Tommy Davis and denied entry into the end zone.

“Right when I saw him leave the ground I just jumped up,” Davis said, who ended up with four total tackles, a fumble recovery along with his game clinching pick.

Regardless of the tightness of the game, senior linebacker Alex Kube was happy to walk away with a win before arguably the toughest stretch of their schedule.

“You got to enjoy a win no matter who it is, no matter where it is and when it is,” Kube said. “It is important because momentum going into the next game gives you confidence.”