Costly mistakes by Idaho helped Northern Illinois earn a 42-35 victory Saturday. Dating back to last December's Poinsettia Bowl loss, the Huskies ended a four-game losing streak by knocking off the Vandals in the Kibbie Dome. Junior defensive end Larry English keyed the victory with a single-game school record of five sacks, besting his previous high of four and a half sacks against Temple last year. “It's been long overdue,” English said. “This was a good team win. It's a relief to get a win. We've got eight more games to go. We've still got a long season left.” Matt Simon had a career day as well, catching four passes for 115 yards. It was Simon's first career 100-yard passing game. Simon also blocked a punt that led to an NIU touchdown by Jeff Fontana. “It's good to finally get a win,” Simon said. “We've had a bad taste in our mouths since last year.” Justin Anderson led NIU with 167 yards on 35 carries. Anderson added an 11-yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 42-21 lead. “We're definitely happy to get the monkey off our backs,” Anderson said. “We showed we can win now. We did a good job moving the ball today. I was running hard and finished my runs.” Northern Illinois quarterback Dan Nicholson went 10-for-17 passing for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Nicholson threw one interception, but hit Simon for a 59-yard touchdown and Britt Davis for a 2-yard TD. Idaho (1-3) was led was Deonte Jackson, who rushed for 111 yards and scored two touchdowns. The Vandals finished with 163 yards rushing. The Vandals jumped ahead 7-0 on an 8-yard touchdown run by Jackson, but the Huskies answered quickly when Nicholson found Simon for a 59-yard touchdown to tie the score. The Vandals advanced to the Huskies' 8-yard line on the following drive, but NIU's Chase Carter intercepted a Nathan Enderle pass and took it the other way for a 95-yard touchdown. The interception return was the eighth longest play in school history, and the first return for a touchdown since Ray Smith's 68-yarder at Central Florida in 2004. “It just felt good to finally make a big play,” Carter said. “It was a slant and Cory Hanson tipped it and it landed right in my hands and I just took off. I just wanted to get into the end zone.” After Nicholson's second touchdown pass put the Huskies up 21-7, Simon blocked a punt that was recovered by Jeff Fontana in the end zone, extending NIU's lead to 28-7. English sacked Enderle with four minutes left in the first half, knocking the ball into the end zone. English fell on it for a 35-7 lead. It was English's first touchdown since high school. The Aurora native had a career-high 12 tackles in the victory. “I didn't get blocked on that play,” English said. “They ran a bootleg. I recognized it. Our coverage was good and I got my hand hit their quarterback. The ball went flying. That (touchdown) was something I've dreamed and imagined about.” The 35 first-half points by NIU was its best scoring half since tallying 38 points last year against Indiana State in the opening half. Idaho's Shiloh Keo gave the Vandals some hope when he returned a punt 100 yards with 34 seconds left in the half to make the score 35-14. The Huskies scored 28 unanswered points until Keo's punt return. Jackson's second score of the day, an 8-yard run with 9:57 left in the third, made it 35-21. The Huskies got the points back on an eight-play, 93-yard drive capped by an 11-yard Anderson TD run. Idaho made it 42-21 on a 10-yard pass from Enderle to freshman receiver Maurice Shaw. The Vandals took one last shot at the Huskies when Enderle found tight end Eddie Williams for a 15-yard touchdown with 1:01 left to play. Idaho's Eric Greenwood recovered the ensuing on-side kick at NIU's 47 with 59 seconds left. Unlike the Southern Illinois and Eastern Michigan games, the Huskies held tight and stopped Idaho. The Vandals reached the NIU 17, but English sacked Enderle to end the game. The sack put an end to a stellar day by Enderle, who was 27-of-54 passing for 423 yards and two touchdowns. The NIU defense entered the game with one turnover, but tallied three interceptions, one fumble recovery and one blocked punt to go along with five sacks from English. Carter, Bradley Pruitt and John Tranchitella each had one interception. “As a defense, we got winded because the air was different,” said English. “We had oxygen tanks on the sidelines, but we endured for the victory. We blitzed a lot and got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We had a lot of good coverage as I got a couple of coverage sacks.”
What's with the uniforms? The Northern Illinois football team unveiled new road uniforms for the 2007 schedule. The Huskies were dressed in white with a black stripe on their shoulders along with cardinal lettering. However, the uniforms didn't fit several players, leading to mass confusion for television viewers and Idaho's statistical crew. Justin Anderson was one of the players forced to change uniform numbers. The sophomore normally dons the No. 21 jersey, but wore No. 43. “I couldn't fit into my jersey,” said Anderson. “The one they ordered was too small. It didn't bother me. I would have played if they gave me jersey number 100.” Matt Simon shifted from No. 85 to No. 99, leading to a career-day receiving and a blocked punt on special teams. The uniform change played havoc on Idaho's final statistics. According to the final stat sheet, Chase Carter, Saul Ibarra, Melvin Rice, D.J. Pirkle and Andy Dittbenner were the six ball carriers for the Huskies. Also, Dittbenner was listed as the quarterback instead of Nicholson.