Nobody expected this Huskie team to take the field for Homecoming Saturday. Western Michigan was supposed to have turned the corner to take the MAC West crown this year. But alas, out of nowhere came the Northern Illinois Huskies, with head coach Dave Doeren leading the march into Huskie Stadium where a crowd of over 20K+ cheered them on.
The first quarter started off a lot like the Central Michigan game. A Murphy's Law type of start where if there was something that could go wrong, it did. A Chandler Harnish intercepted pass in the redzone. A muffed punt by Perez Ashford moving backwards, trying to keep up with the wind. And yes, a snap for a punt did bounce off of guard Logan Pegram, while Ryan Neir had to dive on the ball to sacrifce a safety.
Keeping the Huskies on track all game long was the defense, who held WMU to two field goals early on. The NIU offense didn't skip a beat, scoring a touchdown and two field goals themselves in the first half. Huge chunks of yardage Akeem Daniels (25, 24), Nathan Palmer (58) and Chandler Harnish (29) set up the Huskies to pull within two points, losing 13-15 going into the half.
In the second half, Chandler Harnish and the NIU offense went ham, while the defense didn't give anything up until garbage time. This defense is night-and-day from what it was at the beginning of the season. Coach Doeren made the necessary changes after the CMU embarrassment and the "blackshirts" have been relentless.
Pat Schiller was phenomenal with 10 tackles and a sack. Alan Baxter & Sean Progar both finally put some pressure in the backfield with a sack and a TFL apiece. Both Demetrius Stone and Michael Santacaterina had interceptions.
New guys like Dechane Durante and Jhony Faustin were just making plays all over the place. It was awesome to watch. Watching Harnish run for 231 yds and pass for 203 more wasn't bad either. Overall it was a tremendous game and the Huskies finally matched up to their preseason expectations.
The Huskies were an underdog at their own homecoming and transcended expectations. The sky is truly the limit for these comeback Huskies. They're not ready to give up any ground in the division just quite yet. Now they just have to keep it up @ Buffalo and @ Toledo.