Created:Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:40 p.m.CDT
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Huskies set tone in victory

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@shawmedia.com
Northern Illinois wide receiver Perez Ashford (7) extends out for a touchdown during the second quarter against Cal Poly on Saturday at Huskie Stadium. (Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@shawmedia.com)

DeKALB – Chandler Harnish wasn't going to shy away from contact.

The Northern Illinois senior quarterback, along with the rest of the Huskies, wanted to set a tone during Saturday's eventual 47-30 win against Cal Poly.

So midway through the second quarter, with NIU ahead by 20, Harnish got a first down on a run near midfield, bowling over Cal Poly free safety Angel Morales in the process. The senior quarterback sprung to his feet immediately, waving his arms upward to energize the crowd of 14,321 at Huskie Stadium.

"He got people jacked up today, and I think he finally ran somebody over for the first time," Doeren said.

The drive would end eight plays later on a Harnish pass to Perez Ashford, who scored from 3 yards out on a second effort with two Mustang defenders dragging him to the turf.

"It's because we have great wide receivers that will go get the ball," Harnish said. "They have to play soft coverage if they want to get their safeties in the box to stop the run. That's what we need to do, that's what our offense is built on."

Wanting to get what they said was a sour taste of losses to Wisconsin and Kansas out of their mouths, the Huskies did just that, scoring on their first six possessions and only punting once in the victory.

"They got that pace going, and we before we knew it, it was (27-0)," Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said.

NIU (2-2) showcased its offense the way it wanted, with three touchdown drives that took less than two minutes while racking up big chunks of yards. The Huskies gained 542 yards, 355 of them coming on the ground.

Jasmin Hopkins, who finished with a career-high 143 rushing yards, helped set that early tone with a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. That was followed by freshman receiver Tommylee Lewis scoring a 9-yard run in his first collegiate game, and Chandler Harnish adding a 29-yard touchdown.

Harnish also broke Huskie great George Bork's school record for touchdowns, ending the day with 67 for his career, topping the mark of 65 set by Bork from 1960-63.

With the Huskies' offense back on track, NIU coach Dave Doeren said there were some things he liked about his defense's performance, including a much-improved day on third down. The Mustangs (1-3) converted 3 of 12 third-down opportunities.

"I thought, at the beginning of the game and really all the way through the first half, I was proud of the way the defense started and did some things," Doeren said. "We started out with a three-and-out and a sack. That was a big deal to start fast, the way we did."

Senior middle linebacker Pat Schiller disrupted Cal Poly's spread-option offense with regularity. He finished with 11 tackles and a sack.

But there were some familiar causes for concern with NIU's defensive play.

The Huskies were outscored in the second half and looked flustered when they were unable to stop quarterback Andre Broadous' rushing. Broadous cut it to a two-score game with a 1-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

"I came away from this win today, and I was thinking it's good to have this win, but we still have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball," Schiller said. "I think we were able to execute our assignments great in the first half, and you've got to give a lot of credit to Cal Poly because they were able to make a few changes that we hadn't practiced earlier in the week."

NIU opens the Mid-American Conference portion of its schedule next 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Central Michigan.

How do you feel about NIU's recruiting class?
NIU couldn't have done better
Huskies went to a BCS bowl in 2012, it's disappointing
Talk to me in three years