MUNCIE, Ind. – Perseverance was the word of the week for Northern Illinois.
The Huskies had two second-half comebacks before Saturday’s game at Ball State.
Down nine points at one point in the fourth quarter at Scheumann Stadium, NIU was forced to erase another deficit. In what is becoming a habit this season, the Huskies persevered, defeating Ball State, 35-23.
Junior running back Akeem Daniels scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 54-yard pass from Jordan Lynch with 4:58 left in the game, and Lynch capped the scoring with a 71-yard touchdown run with more than three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know if I could have picked a better word for the team,” NIU head coach Dave Doeren said after the game. “I really thought [offensive coordinator] Rod Carey called some key plays there. The route to Akeem was a big-time call, and Jordan threw a great ball.”
Lynch ran for 207 yards and scored three touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards a carry. He was 16-for-23 passing for 195 yards and a touchdown.
The junior’s third rushing touchdown of the game came on the play which has worked so well this season, the quarterback draw.
Lynch took the snap, went right, got past the defensive line and was gone.
“There’s only so much you can do to it before we take advantage of something else,” Lynch said. “it’s just a matter of time before I find a crease.”
Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning had a busy day himself, going 42 of 71 through the air for 434 yards and a touchdown. Wenning’s completion and attempt totals were both school records.
Wenning also made a couple of costly mistakes, throwing two interceptions. NIU safety Jimmie Ward had one, with linebacker Michael Santacaterina getting the other. Cornerback Demetrius Stone recovered a fumble for NIU’s third turnover of the game.
“Going into the game we knew they were going to go straight to pass,” Ward said. “We had a whole bunch of man coverage and different type of schemes to kind of confuse the quarterback.”
The Huskies defense bent at times, which is shown by Ball State’s 563 yards of total offense, but NIU came up big when it needed to. The Huskies defense forced the Cardinals to attempt five field goals, two of which kicker Steven Schott missed.
“I thought the defense had a ton of huge stops today,” Doeren said. “After momentum plays from their side of the ball we found a way to stand. ... Just really proud of the resiliency of our defense.”