NIU digs itself a hole early on
MT. PLEASANT, Mich. – Any sort of momentum Northern Illinois wanted out of taking the ball to start Friday's 45-31 loss to Central Michigan was wiped out quickly.
After a three-and-out on offense, including an 11-yard sack by Sean Murnane to put the Huskies at their own 13-yard line, NIU was forced to punt into the wind. Mike Salerno's 30-yard punt gave quarterback Dan LeFevour and the Chippewas a short field to work with, and they capitalized with a 13-yard LeFevour touchdown pass to Bryan Schroeder.
Two drives later, Salerno hit a punt nine yards that gave the Chippewas the ball at the NIU 25. Just like that, it was 10-0 Central Michigan.
"We had a situation with the wind was pretty stiff in that area and they got some momentum," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "They're on the short field on a bad punt. They capitalized on it. "
Linebacker Pat Schiller said the team accomplished one goal of stopping punt returner Antonio Brown to minus-9 yards on punt returns, but the defense wasn't in a great position to start drives.
"Our special teams came out and we just had a couple of bad plays and I think we were able to contain Brown pretty well, which was our biggest challenge this week, stopping him," Schiller said. "But when you don't get the punts that you want, that you'd like to have, it's hard. Field position is big. Special teams is a big part of the game and that kind of hurt us early on."
More for Moore: After catching one pass in the previous four games, freshman wide receiver Martel Moore came up with a big day, leading NIU in receiving with 61 yards on three receptions.
"He had a big-play mentality," running back Chad Spann said. "He's able to go up and get it. We knew that when we saw him in camp. He's a guy that can just go up and get it."
History maker: Spann's six-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was his 19th rushing score of the season, tying him with Stacy Robinson (1989 and 1990) and Michael Turner (2002) for the most in a single season in school history.
In another good piece of news for Spann, his injured shoulder held up better than expected and he was able to handle 15 carries for 76 yards.
"It just felt a little bit better," Spann said. "We added a couple more pads under the shoulder pads and it took the blows out a little bit better, so it held up real well."
Injury updates: Sophomore running back Me'co Brown was held out of the game with ankle and shoulder injuries.
"He was not ready to play full speed and if you're not ready to play full speed, you're not going to play," Kill said.
Safety Mike Sobol (concussion) did not make the trip. Linebacker Spencer Williamson went down with a knee injury while covering a punt return in the second half and his long-term status is unknown.