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'Running for his life'

NIU defensive lineman Jake Coffman intercepted a pass and returned it for a 79-yard touchdown on Satuday.
NIU defensive lineman Jake Coffman intercepted a pass and returned it for a 79-yard touchdown on Satuday.

DEKALB – The nature and novelty of Jake Coffman’s 79-yard interception return touchdown Saturday inspired his Northern Illinois football teammates to weigh in with reviews.

Running back Chad Spann delivered his with not-so-brutal honesty.

He could have used a placard with a “10” scribbled on it.

“I thought he did pretty good, actually,” said Spann, whose three touchdowns got the ball rolling on a 38-3 rout of Western Michigan.

“He looked like he was running for his life.”

Coffman’s shoe finally was on the other foot, because the NIU defense showed similar unease with the 6-foot-5, 255-pound redshirt junior defensive end sidelined the week before in a loss to Idaho.

“Hit weird,” in his words, during a Sept. 19 upset victory at Purdue, Coffman returned to the lineup and sparked a return to what the Huskies believe will be defensive normalcy.

Western Michigan managed just 251 offensive yards as Coffman and Co. hounded Broncos quarterback Tim Hiller.

Hiller finished the day of slightly better than 50 percent passing (18-for-35) and three interceptions.

“We draw a lot from Jake, the way he works hard, the way he gets after it,” cornerback Kiaree Daniels said.

“We were glad to have him back.”

Hiller’s final interception came on the opening play of the fourth quarter, as Coffman tipped the ball to himself on the Huskies’ 21 and juggled it before gaining control.

He shifted into high school mode then, recalling his days as a two-way hybrid at Forreston.

“I played tight end, so I knew how to score,” Coffman said. “But never on defense.”

The touchdown was the first of his collegiate career and capped the scoring, but not Coffman’s afternoon.

He pounced on a Hiller fumble on the Broncos’ next possession, suggesting after the game he couldn’t have done much more.

“I’m completely empty right now,” Coffman said.

Not the Huskies. Along with his defensive prowess, teammates routinely laud Coffman’s military service before he came to DeKalb, which included separate tours of Middle Eastern duty as a Marine Corps corporal.

After the game, Huskies coach Jerry Kill discussed the challenges of keeping players in their late teens and early 20s focused as NIU heads into its bye week. He only mentioned Coffman -- who turned 25 in August -- later.

“Our kids look up to him. Shoot, I look up to him,” Kill said. “We all should.”

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