DeKALB – While Northern Illinois' offense uncharacteristically struggled against Akron on Saturday, the Huskie defense continued its consistent play and came up with a couple big stops down the stretch in a 27-20 win.
Trailing by seven late in the fourth quarter, Akron twice had opportunities to drive for a tying score. Twice, NIU's defense forced the Zips to turn the ball over on downs.
The victory extended NIU's Huskie Stadium winning streak to 23 games, a new Mid-American Conference record, and also gave NIU 19 consecutive MAC wins, tying the previous mark set by Bowling Green in the early 1990s.
"Our defense is a good defense," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "They have the ability to carry us, and tonight they did. I'm really proud of them."
After Akron (1-6, 0-2 MAC) scored on its opening drive, NIU (6-0, 2-0) responded with 17 consecutive points as NIU executed a six-play, 74-yard drive that ended when Jordan Lynch scrambled to his right for an 18-yard touchdown to tie the game, 7-7.
NIU's defense forced a quick stop and Tyler Wedel, filling in for an injured Mat Sims, kicked his first career field goal, converting a 42-yard attempt to give NIU a 10-7 lead. Another quick defensive stop gave NIU good field position and Lynch hit Desroy Maxwell over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown.
Akron running back Jawon Chisholm rushed for his second touchdown to cut the lead to 17-14 late in the first quarter and neither team would score in the second quarter as NIU took a three-point lead into halftime.
NIU was only 1 of 15 on third-down conversions for the game and Lynch completed only 16 of 35 passes for 220 yards. The 27 points scored is the fewest for NIU all season.
"Speaking for myself and the offense, we have a bad taste in our mouth already," Lynch said in the postgame press conference. "We're anxious to get back out there; I know I am."
NIU's defense continued its trend of making solid second-half adjustments, allowing only six points after the first quarter. Jimmie Ward also picked off his fifth pass of the season with an interception early in the fourth quarter.
"They never give away a game. They don't give 'em away," Akron coach Terry Bowden said. "That's why they have the record they have."
NIU scored on its first drive of the third quarter as Tommylee Lewis took a wide receiver sweep for 16 yards and then, on the next play, went down the sideline for 40 more on a screen pass from Lynch. Three plays later, Cameron Stingily, who finished with 80 yards on 21 carries, went in for a 9-yard touchdown run to put NIU back up by 10.
A Wedel field goal in the fourth quarter put NIU up by 13, but Akron cut the lead back to seven when quarterback Kyle Pohl scrambled to his right and found Tyrell Goodman for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 5:27 left in the game. Boomer Mays blocked the ensuing Akron extra point.
NIU goes on the road to Central Michigan next week.
"I know we're going to bounce back, regardless," Stingily said of the offense. "It's better to learn from a win then a loss."