DeKALB – There was no Toledo disappointment this time around.
Tuesday night was just one big party for the 18,472 football fans at Huskie Stadium. Most were dressed in black. The 65-30 Northern Illinois win just as well was a funeral for the Rockets, the destroyers of so many previous NIU seasons.
"It was a great atmosphere," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "I was excited the way the kids. I thought they played hard and prepared well. The preparation paid off tonight."
It was just the Huskies’ ninth victory against the Rockets in 38 meetings, but for NIU (8-2, 6-0 Mid-American Conference West) the blowout means so much more than retribution for years of suffering. The Huskies, winners of seven straight, now control the MAC West’s bid to the conference championship with a one-game lead and tiebreaker over Toledo (6-4, 5-1 MAC West).
With remaining road games against 3-7 Ball State and 1-8 Eastern Michigan, the Huskies have a legitimate chance to sweep the MAC for the first time in school history. Judging by Tuesday’s performance, NIU certainly didn’t look like a team capable of being upset by teams at the bottom of the MAC standings.
The Huskies bulldozed Toledo’s third-ranked MAC rush defense for 422 yards on the ground, led by Chandler Harnish (149 rushing yards) and Chad Spann (70 yards and three touchdowns). Freshman Akeem Daniels found the end zone on both of his carries, runs of 12 and 50 yards.
"It's a tremendous feeling," Spann said. "There's a lot of tradition in this game. It's a big game for both teams for our postseason goals. To be able to come out and have the showing that we did and put up as many points as we did, it really feels good."
While Toledo scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, the NIU offense topped the Rockets with four third-quarter trips to the end zone, including Tommy Davis’ 83-yard punt return.
Jasmin Hopkins' 49-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter gave the Huskies the fifth-most points in school history and the second most by NIU in a MAC game.
"We got some good speed," Kill said. "I think it showed up. We had some big plays."
Harnish’s 28-yard touchdown late in the second quarter gave NIU a 28-0 lead and sent the second largest Huskie Stadium crowd of the season – 21,230 attended an Oct. 16 homecoming win over Buffalo – into a frenzy with the student section singing Taio Cruz’s pop hit “Dynamite” long after the music was cut from the stadium speakers.
After the program’s second win over the Rockets in three seasons under Kill, Huskies fans didn’t want the party to end. After trampling through its first six MAC games by a combined score of 253-103, the celebration might continue through Dec. 3 – when the MAC Championship kicks off at Ford Field.
"It was certainly a good win for Huskie nation," Kill said. "We kind of survive and move on and go to the next week, but we'll enjoy this for tonight anyway."