Northern Illinois’ Tommylee Lewis (80) returns the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against Toledo. He added a 95-yard kickoff-return TD. JEREMY WADSWORTH~AP
Updated: December 3, 2011 8:23AM
TOLEDO, Ohio — From start to finish, Tuesday night’s shootout between Northern Illinois and Toledo was a wonder to behold as scoring records went through the roof and defenses bottomed out.
After eight lead changes, 17 touchdowns and 1,121 yards of offense, NIU prevailed 63-60. Wide receiver Perez Ashford scored the winning touchdown on a four-yard reception with 19 seconds to play.
The 123 combined points rank second in Mid-American Conference history.
“I’ve been in some good games, but this is as good as it gets,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said. “I knew we were going to score on that last drive. The kids were in the flow, and I didn’t have to say anything to them.”
Toledo fell short because of NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish, who had 398 yards of offense.
He completed 17 of 26 passes for 265 yards and a career-high six touchdowns, threw no interceptions and suffered no sacks.
Harnish also gained 133 yards on 16 carries.
Led by Eric Page’s five touchdown receptions, which tied a MAC record set by former NFL star Randy Moss, Toledo (5-4, 4-1) overcame a 14-point deficit to grab a 60-56 lead with 4:16 to play.
“Page is the best player ever to play for Toledo,” Doeren said.
NIU (6-3, 4-1) almost gave the game away with two false-start penalties in the game’s last 80 seconds after getting the ball at Toledo’s 5-yard line. But the Huskies refused to break.
Tommylee Lewis shattered the partisan Glass Bowl crowd of 19,004 with two electrifying kickoff returns to open NIU’s scoring.
Lewis caught the opening kick at his goal line and snaked his way through defenders for an NIU-record 100-yard touchdown return. It also was the longest Toledo had ever allowed.
The Rockets responded with a nine-play, 67-yard drive, capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass to Page from quarterback Austin Dantin, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns.
But Lewis ran back the next kickoff 95 yards for his second touchdown.
Wide receiver Nathan Palmer had three touchdown catches for the Huskies.