TOLEDO, Ohio – Northern Illinois needed to get something going on offense to start the second half of Saturday’s 20-19 loss to Toledo, and not just a couple plays to gain back momentum.
Trailing 14-6 to Toledo after a first-half offensive performance that had NIU players searching for answers after the game, the Huskies responded.
NIU drove the ball 72 yards in 13 plays, covering 6 minutes and 39 seconds and was completed by a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chandler Harnish.
“It was big to do that because it kind of gave our team confidence, gave our offense a little rhythm,” Harnish said. “We showed ourselves that we could go down there with ease and the next drive we kind of got off that.”
Me’co Brown rushed five times in the drive for 32 yards, including his longest run of the game with a 12-yard scamper.
Chad Spann added two rushes for 10 yards and Harnish completed two passes, one to Landon Cox and one to Marcus Lewis, as NIU cut the Rockets’ lead to one at 14-13.
The drive gave the Huskies confidence and was exactly what the NIU coaches talked about at halftime to try and get the offense back on track.
“I like how our kids came out after halftime,” said offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. “They had a determination about them and it was like a tale of two halves. That’s one thing we’ll go back and hammer them about it.”
But it was the first half that had NIU’s offensive players and coaches shaking their heads.
Part of the credit for that goes to Toledo’s defensive gameplan, Limegrover said.
Especially with safety Barry Church, who played a major role throughout the game in addition to his blocked extra point and blocked field goal.
“They played Church high as a safety so they could get him down on plays and play as another linebacker, which we hadn’t seen before,” Limegrover said. “That was to stop our power run game and that’s why we started spreading them out.”
Harnish said he could have played better in the first half, too.
“I can point to a couple of plays,” Harnish said. “I missed a wide open Reed Cunningham right down the middle of the field. It’s little things like that that just kill an offense.”
And despite a solid drive to start the second half, the offensive woes of the first half and overall inconsistency were too much to overcome.