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Huskies' upset bid falls just short

(Beck Diefenbach - bdiefenbach@daily-chronicle.com)
NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish releases a fourth quarter pass in the Huskies' 28-20 loss to Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Saturday night.

MADISON, Wis. - It looked so bad early in the fourth quarter for the Northern Illinois football team that the Camp Randall Stadium JumboTron had already posted Wisconsin's record as 1-0.

For a minute, the Huskies made that scoreboard operator sweat it out.

Because after a fast and furious fourth-quarter comeback, NIU was down a touchdown with the ball in Wisconsin territory in the final two minutes.

After a fourth-down Chandler Harnigh pass to fullback Kyle Skarb fell incomplete, that run finally came to an end with Wisconsin winning 28-20 in front of 80,532 fans in the season opener on Saturday.

"The great thing about the game of football, it's just like the game of life, when things aren't going your way you either lay down and quit or you fight back," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "We talk to our kids all the time about that."

For the first three quarters, the Huskies (0-1) couldn't find the end zone. But in that comeback, with starting running back Me'co Brown injured on the sidelines, Chad Spann ran in a pair of 2-yard touchdowns before recovering an onside kick that gave the Huskies a shot at completing the comeback.

Harnish started finding the time to complete the passes that had fallen short incomplete earlier in the game. And after failing to convert their first nine third downs, the Huskies finally came through with three third-down conversions.

"We could feel something was changing and we found that rhythm as an offense," Harnish said. "Cory [Hanson] picked off that pass and, from that point, I felt like this was our game."

The game started on a sour note for the Huskies as first-time Badgers (1-0) quarterback Scott Tolzien threw an 80-yard touchdown to Isaac Anderson on Wisconsin's first play.

From there the Badgers rolled, gaining 421 yards to NIU's 151 through three quarters while dominating pretty much every facet of the game.

"I just don't think we got into a real good rhythm for awhile," Kill said. "They were big and physical up front and we didn't move them around a lot and that's tough. That line of scrimmage is so critical, when you struggle with that it's hard to get things going on a consistent basis."

The Huskies still didn't dominate up front, but they were able to somehow get things down with an interception from Hanson and Harnish's fleet-footed leadership on the field.

While the comeback didn't come to fruition, it was another chance for a young NIU team to learn.

And after losing close games to BCS conference opponents Minnesota and Tennessee last season, the Huskies feel like that big win will soon be on the way.

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