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NIU 41, Ball State 38: Late FG wins it for Huskies

Updated: December 17, 2011 8:40AM

DeKALB — Mid-American Conference defenses can’t seem to stop quarterback Chandler Harnish and the Northern Illinois offense. They can only hope to contain them.

Ball State did it for about a half Tuesday, but fifth-year senior Harnish got untracked in the second half and accounted for 519 total yards in rallying the Huskies from 17 points down in a 41-38 victory. That came on Mathew Sims’
34-yard field goal with eight seconds left after Sims had tied it with a 23-yard field goal with 2:46 left.

‘‘What a night,’’ gushed NIU coach Dave Doeren after his team won its sixth straight. ‘‘I thought, just like the Toledo game [a 63-60 win], both teams played to win and left it on the field.’’

But as good as his league-leading offense was, Doeren noted, ‘‘The defense held them to 3-of-14 on third-down conversions, and that was the difference in the game.’’

On a night when the Huskies were guilty of five personal fouls that proved costly — among nine infractions for 107 yards — it was a roughing-the-passer penalty against Ball State that kept a late drive alive, leading to Sims’ tying field goal.

NIU got the ball back with 1:44 left on its own 20 and drove to the Cardinals’ 17 to set up Sims’ game-winner.

Harnish completed 26 of 36 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 28 times for 181 yards, becoming NIU’s all-time leader in touchdown passes (62) and all-time leader in rushing yardage (2,807) for a quarterback. He passed George Bork (60 TD passes, 1960-63) and Stacey Robinson (1988-90). Harnish is the school’s ninth all-time leading rusher.

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