DeKALB, Ill. – Northern Illinois senior quarterback Chandler Harnish completed 18-of-25 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns and the Huskies’ No. 1 defense kept the NIU second offense out of the end zone as the “Cardinal” team – made up of the Huskies’ top offensive and defensive players – defeated the “White” team 35-6 at the 2011 Northern Illinois Spring Football Game Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
Three of the Cardinal squad’s five touchdowns came on one-yard runs by Jasmin Hopkins, who totaled 46 yards on 10 carries on the day, Akeem Daniels (11-64) and Harnish, who had a 13-yard scamper for a score. Harnish also hit Martel Moore on a 57-yard deep ball on the longest play of the day; Da’Ron Brown closed out the scrimmage with a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren was pleased with the Huskies’ work on Saturday, as he has been through nearly all of Northern Illinois’ 15 spring practices.
“I thought the guys had good energy; they competed well,” Doeren said. “Today was a clean performance on both sides. It seemed like the defense played pretty well. We tackled better than I thought we would after not tackling for a couple of days. The kickers kicked the ball well. We came out healthy, that’s the number one thing.”
Sophomore Jordan Lynch completed 14-of-22 passes for 148 yards, but the White team managed just a pair of Ryan Fillingim field goals – of 38 and 37 yards - versus the No. 1 defense.
Defensively, safety Demetrius Stone collected the lone interception of the day, while Anthony Wells forced and recovered a Harnish fumble. Joe Windsor and George Rainey notched sacks from their defensive end positions.
Daniels led all rushers with 11 carries for 64 yards while Leighton Settle tallied 60 yards for the White team on 11 rushes. Perez Ashford led the receiving corps with six grabs for 70 yards while Moore, Brown and Nathan Palmer each collected six passes and Willie Clark grabbed four receptions.
Doeren, who has talked all spring about the competition at tailback, saw all four backs on display Saturday.
“There is a lot of talent at tailback, and you saw that today,” Doeren said. “I thought Leighton Settle did a nice job out there. Jas Hopkins has been our most consistent back during spring, and Akeem Daniels flashed [what he can do] there at the end. Cameron Bell came in at fullback and did some things.”
While two of the Huskies’ top four tailbacks are new this spring in Settle and Jamal Womble, and Daniels has converted from receiver to tailback, Harnish is a four-year starter under center who brings 31 career starts over the last three seasons into the 2011 season. After adapting to a change in the terminology for the offense and a difference in tempo, Doeren said he has been pleased with the development of the offense during the spring.
“[Early on] they were speaking a new language, a few coaching points were different,” Doeren said. “We didn’t want to reinvent what they had going here. They had a good system and a good team. Today, Chandler did a nice job of being a consistent guy who throws the ball well, manages the game and handles the team. He doesn’t have to do too much. You saw today, in the red zone, when he tucked it in and went for the [13-yard] touchdown. That is exactly what we want from him.”
The progress made by the Huskies this spring has NIU’s new head coach already looking forward to August practices and the next time he can get his Northern Illinois team – with the addition of the 2011 signing class – on the field.
“About halfway through camp I told both coordinators to stop installing new things and work on the details and what we have in,” Doeren said. “We’re not playing an opponent until fall and there will be plenty of time during [August] camp when we’re concentrated 100 percent on football.”
Northern Illinois takes on Army at Huskie Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3 in its 2011 season opener. NIU will play six games at Huskie Stadium and plays host to Wisconsin in Soldier Field Showdown II on Sept. 17 in Chicago’s Soldier Field. Season tickets for the 2011 campaign are now on sale at www.NIUHuskies.com, with the priority deadline for Huskie season ticket holders and Huskie Athletic Support Fund members to order tickets set for next Saturday, April 30, 2011. For more information, call 815-753-1923 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays or see the Huskie football ticket website at www.HuskieFootball2011.com.