Created:Monday, October 14, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

NIU holds on

NIU's Stephen O'Neal against Akron Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 in DeKalb. (H. Rick Bamman –

DeKALB – Akron coach Terry Bowden had some pretty high praise for Northern Illinois defensive tackle Ken Bishop.

Following NIU’s 27-20 win over the Zips at Huskie Stadium on Saturday, Bowden, in his second year leading Akron, mentioned Bishop and former Bowling Green defensive tackle Chris Jones as the two players who have stood out to him as difference-makers on film during Bowden’s time in the Mid-American Conference. Jones was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Bishop was a big part of NIU’s defensive effort Saturday as the Huskies improved to 6-0. He notched six tackles, which tied him with cornerbacks Marlon Moore and Paris Logan for the team lead. Bishop also had a tackle for loss.

“He’s got incredible strength and explosion,” Bowden said. “Whether it’s against Iowa or us, he has the ability to stick a hand in somebody’s chest and just drive them back. Then he separates with great quickness.

“It’s his strength, power and quickness. He’s got the whole package.”

In the Huskie Stadium opener against Eastern Illinois, the NIU offense had to pick up a defense that gave up 39 points. This time, the defense bailed out an inconsistent offense in front of the home crowd.

Akron moved the ball during the first quarter, scoring two touchdowns, but after that the Zips couldn’t do much. NIU held Zips tailback Jawon Chisholm to 3.5 yards per carry, and quarterback Kyle Pohl was only 24 of 56 through the air.

“We knew we had a challenge,” Bishop said. “All week, we knew Akron was going to challenge us by running the ball well and throwing the ball. We took it upon ourselves to do better for our team.”

In the middle of NIU’s big plays was safety Jimmie Ward, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this point.

The senior, who came into the game second in the nation with four interceptions, got his fifth in the fourth quarter, the only turnover of the game, and broke up a key fourth-down pass on Akron’s second-to-last drive of the contest.

Ward injured a finger on the play, but Carey said the training staff popped the joint back in, and Ward was on the field for the Zips’ final drive.

NIU came into the game 113th in the nation in total defense at 479.4 yards per game, and 83rd in scoring at 29.8 points per game.

Saturday, NIU won because of its defense, not in spite of it.

“I was up here a bunch, being asked questions about the defense and the yards they’re giving up,” Carey said. “I kept saying all the time, we’re playing good defense. Just some circumstances are leading to different stats that [reporters] like to look at that makes the questions come up.

“You learn that our defense is a good defense. They have the ability to carry us and tonight they did.”

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?