DeKALB – For Chad Spann, it was a career night in the making by his second run. For Northern Illinois, it meant the Huskies can start thinking about a bowl game and possibly more.
The junior running back's first two touches resulted in two long touchdown runs as Northern Illinois became became bowl-eligible with a 50-6 victory against Eastern Michigan on Thursday night at Huskie Stadium.
Spann's first rush came with just less than two minutes left in the first quarter. The junior running back took the ball 65 yards untouched for a score. His next carry came midway through the second and again he came away unscathed on a 79-yard touchdown. Both runs came when Spann bounced to the outside and he sprinted past the Eagles' secondary.
By the end of the first half, Spann had racked up 151 rushing yards on his way to a 174-yard, career-best game.
"Up front, the [offensive] line started out and did a great job, as always," Spann said. "The wide receivers did a great job down the field, making it easy. It's my job to get the second level, I had to make a play there, and I just turned on the speed and try and get them to the end zone."
Northern Illinois (6-3, 4-1 MAC West) coach Jerry Kill talked all week about playing fast against an Eastern Michigan (0-9, 0-5 MAC West) team that had back-to-back road games in a short week. His team responded to the message and could not have started any better. Tommy Davis returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown after escaping the grasp of several Eastern Michigan defenders.
"I thought it was real important, you want to get momentum," Kill said. "I got several e-mails and several people saying 'Boy I hope you've got them ready to play' and those kinds of things. You always, as a coach, you worry about that. But I really didn't today because in the pregame, I think our kids tried to listen. I saw a good focus in pregame."
After quarterback DeMarcus Grady, making his third consecutive start for the injured Chandler Harnish, found Cox on a wide-open post route for a 30-yard touchdown, it was Spann's turn to shine.
He entered the game on a roll, averaging 110.3 yards a game over the past four contests but topped it against the nation's worst rush defense, making it look easy while he outran the Eagles.
Spann now has 15 rushing touchdowns on the season and 16 total. It was the third straight game Spann has gone over the 100-yard mark.
"I think we've just gotten in a good rhythm with the offensive line, the wide receivers have been playing great," Spann said. "...It's really a whole team effort."
EMU coach Ron English said his players just couldn't keep up with Spann.
"I thought [Spann] got to the secondary and we couldn't run him down," English said. "You guys were a little faster than we could chase him."
To close out the first half, Grady hit Cox again for a touchdown pass, this time for 31 yards, to make the score 37-6.
With bowl-eligibility attained, NIU will look to secure its seventh victory in a season where it appears so far that seven victories will be necessary for non-BCS teams to receive a bowl bid. The Huskies' first chance to do that will come next Thursday against Ball State at 5 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.