YPSILANTI, Mich – Having grown up in central Florida, Northern Illinois running back Akeem Daniels isn’t necessarily accustomed to playing in snow.
Neither is Tommylee Lewis, the Huskies’ sophomore receiver who’s a Riviera Beach, Fla., native.
When the snow started falling and covering the Rynearson Stadium turf Friday, both players got their first chance to play a game in the white flakes. The snow subsided as the game went on, while the Rynearson staff cleared some off, but a good portion of the turf was white during the first half of No. 24 NIU’s 49-7 win.
Daniels had career-highs in yards (112) and touchdowns (four).
“It felt like a movie out there,” Daniels said.
Lewis, meanwhile, had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter, his first return TD of the season. With Friday’s run-back and his two returns for touchdowns against Toledo in 2011, Lewis already has the school record for return TDs.
The guy who grew up in the Sunshine State took the kick to the house with the snow coming down heavily.
“It was crazy. That’s my first time ever playing in snow,” Lewis said. “It was exciting. It was crazy.”
In the end, the weather didn’t affect NIU too much. Huskies coach Dave Doeren said the elements took away a lot of the offense’s deep passing game, but the Huskies (11-1, 8-0 Mid-American Conference), who already clinched the MAC West Division title last week, scored at will, racking up 415 yards of total offense against the Eagles’ (2-10, 1-7 MAC) defense.
Daniels had his great day, but the Huskies’ Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Jordan Lynch, was able to get his numbers as well. Lynch went 16 of 25 passing, throwing for 168 yards and a touchdown, while running for 107 yards. It’s the 10th consecutive game Lynch has rushed for more than 100 yards, which is an NCAA record for quarterbacks.
Lynch said Daniels’ success opened up the zone-read game, and gave credit to players like Daniels, and receiver Martel Moore after the game. Moore caught nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first NIU receiver to go over 1,000 yards since Sam Hurd in 2005.
“We have tons of playmakers out there,” Lynch said. “The reason I get where I’m at today is because of those guys.”
With the victory Friday, the 2012 NIU team became the first squad in school history to win 11 games in the regular season. The win was the Huskies’ 11th consecutive victory, as well, the team’s longest streak as an Football Bowl Subdivision program. It’s NIU’s 16th consecutive MAC win, and the eighth consecutive victory on the road.
Now, it’s on to Ford Field and the MAC Championship Game, where the Huskies will play No. 23 Kent State on Friday. The Golden Flashes beat Ohio, 28-6, on Friday to improve to 11-1.
“It’s going to be a fun game,” Doeren said. “Two great teams on the big stage on TV, that’s what you coach and play for.”