This victory improves Northern Illinois' record to 7-3, which all but guarantees us a bowl spot. It certainly wasn't the prettiest win over the now 1-9 Cardinals, but a W is a W. Right? The MAC Championship is still in sight.
The defense took all of the first half to wake up for this game. The first drive Ball State was able to punch the ball in early strictly by rushing the ball.
Chad Spann surprisingly started the game at running back, and the Huskies marched down the field with a good amount of both rushing and passing by DeMarcus Grady. The result was a wide-open 9 yd TD pass to Preston Williams, who caught the first TD pass of his career on his own senior night.
After forcing a safety on defense and then punching the ball into the endzone with Spann, the Huskies seemed like they would start pulling away from the Cardinals. On the most controversial call of the game, Jerry Kill decided to go for an onside kick that Ball State recovered on NIU's 38 yd line.
The rest of the first half resulted in two Ball State field goals, making the score 16-13 going in to the half. On offense, Me'co Brown wasn't effective and Grady was both sacked and intercepted on two different series.
Chandler Harnish made his return at the start of the 2nd half and drove the Huskies down the field. On 3rd and 4 at BSU's 22 yd line, the Huskies called a timeout. The resulting play was a run up the middle with Brown and Salerno went on to kick a field goal to make it 19-13 Huskies.
Ball State got backed up into their own territory and NIU had great field position after the punt. NIU's drive resulted in a Harnish TD pass to Marcus Lewis in the right corner of the endzone. Yet another senior getting his first TD ever on senior day. The Huskie offense stalled as two separate QB sacks made it hard to continue the drives late in the game. NIU's defense bended, but did not break apart from a temporary lapse by FS Mike Sobol giving up a touchdown.
Timeouts were wasted by Ball State and eventually the Huskies were able to run the clock down to seal a victory.
Both Spann and Brown were shaken up towards the end of the game. Spann was favoring his shoulder, but it didn't seem to serious of an injury watching how he was acting on the sidelines.
It was great to get Harnish some reps in this game to prepare for next week against Ohio. The Huskies now have 9 days to prepare for Saturday's matchup against the 7-3 Bobcats. That looming game may or may not be the deciding factor into whether we get a quality bowl game or not.
What are your thoughts on the game?