Huskies' streak at 5, longest since 2004
BY RICK ARMSTRONG Sun-Times Media
DeKALB, Ill. -- For starters, this Northern Illinois football team can close. Lately, it owns the second half.
A sputtering first-half offense finally got untracked and scored 30 consecutive points Saturday as the Huskies claimed their fifth victory in a row, 33-7 over a Central Michigan team that had beaten them three straight times. It's NIU's longest winning streak since 2004.
And for the third game in a row, the Huskies (6-2, 4-0 MAC West) held a conference opponent scoreless over the final two periods.
''We made mental mistakes in the first half and beat ourselves. We left a couple scores in the red zone,'' said senior tailback Chad Spann, who rushed 23 times for 101 yards and three second-half touchdowns.
This after junior transfer Cameron Bell (Iowa State) saw the most extensive action of his Huskies career and softened up the Central Michigan defense.
''The big fella can run, we know that,'' coach Jerry Kill said of the 242-pounder who would finish with 82 yards on 12 carries.
''When big Cam runs somebody over and runs for 30 yards [as he did in the third quarter], that gets everybody excited,'' said Spann, who has rushed for a touchdown in seven consecutive games and has 11 on the season. ''I get to come in and just finish it up. It's like I get the ice cream.''
Kill said credit for the second-half heroics goes to the players and his strength and conditioning staff for their offseason workouts, not any adjustments he and his coaching staff might make.
''And there's no fire-and-brimstone speech that will do it, either,'' he said.
Chippewas coach Dan Enos, whose team fell to 2-6 and 1-4 in the league, said, ''Northern did the same thing in the second half they did in the first. They just did it better. They fed off that energy.''
The NIU defense came up with three turnovers -- two interceptions from linebacker Tyrone Clark and a fumble recovery from free safety Tommy Davis -- in the first half. The offense had an average starting position of its 48-yard line compared to the visitors' average start of their 22, and NIU led only 9-7 at the break.