Chandler Harnish, Huskies win GoDaddy.com Bowl
By Rick Armstrong Sun-Times Media January 9, 2012 12:34AM
Huskies running back Jasmin Hopkins tries to get past Arkansas State’s Demario Davis. | Butch Dill~AP Photo
Updated: February 10, 2012 9:04AM
MOBILE, Ala. — Chandler Harnish had no intention of sitting this one out.
Despite tweaking an ankle injury that forced him to hop off the field on one foot and miss one second-quarter possession and three plays of another, the Northern Illinois senior quarterback returned to pass for two touchdowns and 270 yards in leading his team to a 38-20 victory Sunday night over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Playing in front of 38,734 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the reigning Mid-American Conference MVP set his 24th school passing record and helped his class become the all-time winningest in school history with its 35th victory.
Harnish finishes with 3,212 yards, breaking the 49-year-old single-season mark of 3,077 set by College Football Hall of Famer George Bork in 1963. Harnish completed 18 of 35 passes and threw one interception.
The maligned and short-handed NIU defense also did its part, forcing four of the Red Wolves’ five turnovers.
They included interceptions by defensive backs Jhony Faustin, Rashaan Melvin and Dechane Durante and a fumble recovery by freshman defensive end Jason Meehan that was forced by defensive end Stephen O’Neal.
Durante returned his pick of ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin 36 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that ended the Red Wolves’ hopes for a comeback.
The other NIU turnover came on a Dominique Ware recovery of a fumbled punt.
Harnish was injured after taking a hit following a 33-yard completion to Martel Moore with 12:01 left in the second quarter and eventually walked to the locker room. The Huskies’ Mathew Sims would miss a 32-yard field goal four plays later.
Sophomore backup quarterback Jordan Lynch directed a seven-play, 78-yard touchdown drive, capping it with a three-yard run with Harnish still sidelined.
Moore became the program’s seventh receiver to top 200 yards in a game. He had eight catches for 223 yards.
“It was just execution, throw and catch,’’ Huskies coach Dave Doeren said. ‘‘I thought Martel Moore played an unbelievable game. He came up big-time.”
Arkansas State took advantage of good field position on its first three possessions to open up a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. The Red Wolves started at NIU’s 45, their 42 and NIU’s 41 thanks to a 50-yard return by Andrew Tryon on the opening kickoff and back-to-back three-and-outs by the Huskies.
Kicker Brian Davis capped the first two drives with field goals of 32 and 36 yards, and Aplin ran in from two yards out for a touchdown with 5:08 left in the quarter.
Northern answered with an 11-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by a nine-yard touchdown pass from Harnish to Perez Ashford. It was set up, however, by some trickery.
On fourth-and-four from ASU’s 5-yard line, the Huskies lined up for a 22-yard field goal.
Holder Ryan Neir took the snap and shoveled a pass to Pat McAvoy, who ran for the first down to keep the drive alive.