Northern Illinois 21, Miami 20 ; 14:54 left in fourth quarter
Since when is NIU just a rushing team? NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish connected with Willie Clark for his third touchdown of the game, this time a 39-yarder. Jordan Lynch underthrew Clark on the same fake quarterback draw earlier in the game.
Miami 20, Northern Illinois 14 ; end of the third quarter
Miami's defense has slowed NIU's offense, almost to a grinding halt, but the Huskies picked up some momentum near the end of the half. The Huskies have the ball at the Miami 39-yard line. The Las Vegas sportsbooks were wrong on this one. We have a game heading into the fourth quarter. Can the No. 24 Huskies pull of the comeback and win their first MAC Championship in 27 years?
Miami 20, Northern Illinois 14 ; 5:52 left in third quarter
Miami had played mistake-free football until RedHawks coaches called for a fake field goal at their own five-yard line and was stuffed at the two-yard line instead of taking the field goal to go up two possessions. Michael Haywood may regret that one tomorrow. Though the RedHawks stuffed the Huskies and after a punt will take over at the NIU 35-yard line.
Miami 20, Northern Illinois 14 ; 9:52 left in third quarter
And Miami starts the second half the same way it started the first half: with an 80-plus yard scoring drive. Thomas Merriweather's one-yard, second effort touchdown run swings the score back in the RedHawks favor following a drive full of bubble screens and rollouts. NIU has struggled to contain the dink-and-dunk Miami offense.
Northern Illinois 14, Miami 13; halftime
We settled into a Midwestern-style football game after we saw glimpses of Oregon-like offenses in the first quarter. The Huskies defensive line has improved against the run, forcing three straight Miami punts. The Huskies' defense also has a blocked field goal, a blocked extra point and three batted balls. The RedHawks came up big on a stuff of the Huskies on 4th-and-1 on the Miami 32-yard line.
For the first time in three games, NIU is playing a meaningful second half. The Huskies led Toledo 28-0, Ball State 35-7 and Eastern michigan 37-3.
We got a great game going here, folks.
Some key first-half stats:
- Miami 94 rushing yards; Thomas Merriweather: six carries for 79 yards
- Miami wide receiver Armand Robinson: six catches for 92 yards
- NIU wide receiver Martel Moore: two catches for 96 yards, two touchdowns
- NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish: 5 of 11 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns
- Miami 2-for-2 in the red zone; NIU 0-for-0
Northern Illinois 14, Miami 13; 8:06 left in 2nd quarter
The NIU wide receivers have been unbelievably consistent this season, but Nathan Palmer just had the biggest Huskies' drop of the season. Chandler Harnish's deep ball split two Miami defenders but Palmer attempted to catch the ball against his body and was unable to haul it in. Josh Wilbur's ensuing punt pinned the RedHawks at their own five-yard line.
Northern Illinois 14, Miami 13; 1:13 left in 1st quarter
Shootout in progress. Martel Moore and Chandler Harnish hooked up for the second time today as Moore hauled in a 27-yard touchdown catch to cap a six-play, 70-yard drive. Moore was hurt on the play and appears to have a left ankle injury.
The NIU offense did its part. We'll see if the defense will show up.
Miami 13, Northern Illinois 7; 3:46 left in 1st quarter
The RedHawks are fooling the NIU defensive line, which is selling out on the Miami zone-read option. The RedHawks went 77 yards on six plays in just under three minutes.
Northern Illinois 7, Miami 6; 6:33 left in 1st quarter
It wasn't Chandler Harnish's prettiest past but NIU fans don't care about that. Martel Moore ran under Harnish's lofted pass, caught it and beat a diving defender for a 69-yard touchdown catch, the longest pass play of the season for the Huskies. Quite a response NIU and a huge momentum shift here early.
Miami 6, Northern Illinois 0; 8:02 left in 1st quarter
You didn't think it'd be that easy did you? Miami is in the MAC Championship Game for a reason and the RedHawks showed why on their opening drive. The RedHawks went 80 yards in eight plays in just over four minutes. Thomas Merriweather's drive-opening 47-yard run (the second longest of his career) set it all up. NIU defensive tackle Mike Krause blocked the Miami extra point.
Miami won the toss and deferred to the second half. The Huskies will receive the ball to start the game.
10 minutes to kickoff
The crowd is slowly trickling in. NIU fans have congregated on the north side of the stadium. Right now they're filling between the 40 lines but some are grabbing close seats all the way to the 20-yard line. NIU fans definitely outnumber Miami fans at this point.
Representatives from the Little Caesars Bowl, the GoDaddy.com Bowl and the Humanitarian Bowl , all MAC primary affiliate bowls, are in attendance.
25 minutes to kickoff
Predictions are in, and the Huskies are the overwhelming favorite.
Fred Mitchell, Chicago Tribune: 42-17 NIU
Rick Armstrong, Aurora Beacon News/Chicago Sun-Times: 49-28 NIU
Lindsey Willhite, Daily Herald: 45-24 NIU
Jay Taft, Rockford Register Star: 32-14 NIU
Steve Nitz, Daily Chronicle: 42-17 NIU
John Sahly, Daily Chronicle, 37-20 NIU
Chris Dertz, Northern Star: 45-21 NIU
45 minutes to kickoff
NIU running backs coach Robert Reeves is one of four finalists for FootballScoop.com's Running Backs Coach of the Year award. Other finalists, voted on by a panel of coaches, are: Jim Mastro (Nevada), Jay Graham (South Carolina) and John Settle (Wisconsin). It's a great honor for Reeves, who has coached under Jerry Kill for 14 seasons. I'd put my money on Settle winning the honor, however. The Badgers had three running backs with 860 or more yards.
Jerry Angelo, general manager of former NIU running back Garrett Wolfe's Chicago Bears, is mingling around the press area here at Ford Field.
60 minutes to kickoff
NIU coach doesn't need extra motivation to win this game, but his contract provides him with just that. Kill earned $10,000 for winning the MAC West Division and the assistants made an extra $1,000. Kill would receive a $25,000 bonus if the Huskies win tonight, while assistants would make an extra $2,000.
- NIU has a clean bill of health heading into this game, with freshman linebacker Cameron Stingily the only NIU regular out of the lineup.
- Junior kicker Ryan Fillingim made the trip instead of freshman Matthew Sims. Fillingim is stronger legged and will back up Michael Cklamovski.
- NIU's live mascot husky dog, Diesel, has made the trip. He's been to every game since Week 2. And the 6-year-old husky has received quite the workout with the amount of touchdowns NIU has scored this season.
90 minutes to kickoff
More than three caravans of about three buses each have made the trek to Ford Field, according to NIU sports information director Donna Turner. It's hard to tell who's an NIU fan and who's a Miami fan though because both sport a similar red.
NIU kicker Mike Cklamovski and Ryan Fillingim are padded up and practicing field goals right now. NIU will suit up 65 players, like any road game.
Two hours to kickoff
Jeremy Werner here, live from Ford Field at Detroit. I’m joined by Daily-Chronicle sports editor John Sahly and correspondent Steve Nitz. The last time John and I were at Ford Field was for the Mid-American Conference Media Day back in July. That day, the Huskies were picked as the MAC West favorite. They’ve lived up to the hype.
But in the East, things haven’t gone as prognosticated. Miami (Ohio) was predicted to finish fifth in the MAC East but survived longer than preseason MAC favorite Temple and Ohio. The Huskies (10-2, 8-0 MAC) are heavy favorites – 17.5 points according to www.vegasinsider.com – over the RedHawks (8-4, 7-1 MAC).
Several NIU players are on the field going through some warmups. The Huskies marching band is seated near the tunnel to the Huskies locker room on the southwest corner of the field. A few NIU fans have made it into the building.
This could be an historic day for NIU. We wrote about it today’s Daily Chronicle and on HuskieWire.com. So catch up on your pregame reading.
Huskies look to win first MAC title game in 27 years; 1983 champs like NIU’s chances: http://www.huskiewire.com/articles/2010/12/02/02584707/index.xml
Q&A with former NIU coach Joe Novak, who coached the 2005 MAC West champs: http://www.huskiewire.com/articles/2010/12/02/53876026/index.xml
RedHawks putting it together after QB injury:
5 keys to victory: http://www.huskiewire.com/articles/2010/12/02/04934379/index.xml
NIU offense putting up video-game numbers:
Be back in a few.