NCAA Game Summary - Eastern Michigan at Northern Illinois
(Friday, November 25th)
Final Score: Northern Illinois 18, Eastern Michigan 12
DeKalb, IL (Sports Network) - Dual-threat quarterback Chandler Harnish threw for a touchdown and ran for another score as Northern Illinois topped Eastern Michigan, 18-12, to earn a berth in the Mid-American Conference championship game.
Harnish finished 9-of-19 passing for 98 yards and added another 148 yards rushing on 17 carries, including a dynamic 68-yard TD run for the Huskies (9-3, 7-1 MAC), who clinched the MAC's West Division to reach their second straight conference championship game where they will play Ohio.
Willie Clark caught two passes for 70 yards for NIU, including a 54-yard TD toss from Harnish, while Martel Moore recorded five catches for 29 yards.
Alex Gillett had 147 yards passing and added another 67 on the ground for the Eagles (6-6, 4-4), who were attempting to finish above .500 and become bowl eligible for the first time since the 1995 season. Eastern Michigan, which has two wins this season against FCS competition, hasn't appeared in a postseason game since a 30-27 win over San Jose State in the 1987 California Bowl, the third-longest bowl drought in all of FBS.
The Huskies opened the scoring on their second possession when Clark slipped behind the defense on play-action and Harnish found him for the 54-yard score.
Eastern Michigan had a chance to even things late in the first quarter thanks in large part to a 42-yard hookup between Gillett and Tyreese Russell. Northern Illinois put together a nice goal-line stand, however, and the Eagles were forced to settle for a 20-yard Kody Fulkerson field goal.
The Huskies extended their lead in the second, taking advantage of a brilliant Ryan Neir punt that pinned Eastern Michigan at its own one-yard line. Two plays later, NIU swarmed Dominique Sherrer and tackled him for a safety.
The good field position on the ensuing free kick eventually resulted in a 39- yard Matthew Sims field goal as Northern Illinois took a 12-3 edge into the locker room for intermission.
Missed opportunities continued to haunt Eastern Michigan in the third quarter when Gillett overthrew a wide open Garrett Hoskins in the flat for what would have been a TD. Instead, Fulkerson booted his second field goal of the game, a 23-yarder with 1:43 left in the frame, as the Eagles cut the deficit to 12-6.
That momentum was short-lived when Harnish responded to give the Huskies some breathing room just over a minute later. The senior signal-caller took a shotgun snap off right tackle, broke a tackle and raced 68 yards for the end zone. Northern Illinois failed on the two-point conversion, however, and took an 18-6 advantage into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles refused to go quietly and made it a one possession game with just over six minutes left after Gillett found Nick Olds for a 24-yard TD. Gillett underthrew the ball and Olds was able to slip under the defender on the play. Inexplicably, Eastern Michigan went for the two-point conversion and failed, leaving NIU with an 18-12 cushion.
Harnish misfired on a key third down, giving the Eagles one last shot with 3:33 on the clock. Gillett manage to pilot the ball down to the NIU 31 before Alan Baxter and Sean Progar broke through for consecutive sacks. A desperation heave on 4th-and-35 for Hoskins went off the tight end's hands, sealing things for the Huskies.
11/25 14:33:30 ET