Created:Monday, September 3, 2012 11:17 p.m.CDT
Updated:Monday, September 3, 2012 11:20 p.m.CDT

Notebook: NIU rotates its running backs

Northern Illinois running back Leighton Settle carries the ball for a 4-yard gain during the first quarter Saturday at Soldier Field. Iowa defeated NIU, 18-17.
Northern Illinois running back Leighton Settle carries the ball for a 4-yard gain during the first quarter Saturday at Soldier Field. Iowa defeated NIU, 18-17. (Rob Winner –

Heading into Saturday’s game against Iowa, it was anyone’s guess as to which Northern Illinois running back was going to get the most carries.

Leighton Settle, Jamal Womble, Akeem Daniels and Keith Harris Jr. all saw time in the backfield, and it was Settle who had the most attempts of any tailback during the Huskies’ 18-17 loss.

Settle had some good runs early, but finished with just 33 yards on 10 carries as NIU’s offense as a whole struggled during the second half. He also caught a pass out of the backfield for 14 yards. Womble was used in short yardage situations, finishing with 5 yards on three carries.

Harris, a true freshman, ran for a 7-yard touchdown on his first collegiate carry. He finished with 11 yards rushing on two attempts.

“When Leighton and Jamal Womble had the ball in their hands they did a great job,” NIU coach Dave Doeren said during Monday’s MAC coaches teleconference. “Keith Harris had a nice run in the red zone to get his first career touchdown.”

Junior Akeem Daniels received most of the first-team reps in preseason practice, but got just one carry for 5 yards.

Doeren does like Daniels’ blocking and catching ability, and said he’s more of a third-down back right now.

Huskie running backs only ran the ball 16 times against Iowa.

Jordan Lynch was NIU’s most impressive runner, gaining 119 yards on 18 carries, including a 73-yard touchdown run.

Doeren said Lynch had the amount of carries he did because of the strength of the Hawkeyes’ front seven. Doeren wanted Lynch to run the ball so NIU’s running game had an extra blocker.

Bobcats pull off the upset at State College circus

The MAC’s biggest win during the weekend came from Ohio, which went to Beaver Stadium and defeated Penn State, 24-14.

It wasn’t your normal opening-week game, considering it was the Nittany Lions’ first home contest since the release of the Freeh Report and the NCAA handing Penn State a four-year bowl ban, among other sanctions.

Saturday’s game was also the first time since 1966 that a head coach not named Joe Paterno roamed the sidelines for a season opener. Bill O’Brien made his debut as Nittany Lions coach.

Ohio coach Frank Solich was pleased with the way his players handled the atmosphere.

“We ended up having five penalties, but we weren’t disrupted as by the crowd noise as what you might think,” Bobcats coach Frank Solich. “And we were a little concerned about that going in, but we’ve got some experienced players. They all seemed to handle that well.”

Chippewas preparing for Spartan invasion

Northern Illinois fans would love to see a team like Illinois or Northwestern visit DeKalb. Saturday, Central Michigan will be in a similar situation when the Chippewas host in-state opponent Michigan State.

The contest is one of a number of home games Central Michigan will have against BCS teams in the coming years. The Chippewas are scheduled to host NC State in 2014, Oklahoma State in 2015 and Kansas in 2018.

Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said those types of games help out in recruiting.

“I think it helps to bring a young man into an atmosphere that’s got a packed house and has all the buzz and the pageantry that it does when you have big games,” Enos said. “That’s what young people dream about when they think about college football. It’s a real, real benefit to recruiting to be able to do that.”

NIU will get a taste of what it’s like to have a BCS team on campus when Kansas visits DeKalb on Sept. 22. It will be the first time the Huskies have hosted a program from one of the six power conferences since Maryland and Iowa State came to DeKalb in 2003. NIU won both of those contests.

Progar earns conference honors

Northern Illinois University defensive end Sean Progar earned Mid-American Conference West Division Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance in leading the Huskies’ defense in an 18-17 loss to Iowa, the league announced Monday.

The Huskies held Iowa out of the end zone for 58 minutes and limited them to 268 yards of total offense. Progar made four tackles and had a 12-yard sack as the Huskie defensive line harassed Iowa starting quarterback James Vandenberg all game, collecting six total sacks.

Progar was named MAC West Defensive Player of the Week after the Huskies’ division clinching win over Eastern Michigan at the end of the 2011 season.

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