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NIU runs over Central Michigan for 55-24 victory

(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Northern Illinois' Perez Ashford (7) carries the ball during a kickoff in the first quarter at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Saturday, Sept. 29. Northern Illinois defeated Central Michigan, 55-24.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois running back Leighton Settle had 152 yards rushing Saturday against Central Michigan, averaging 6.6 yards per carry

Believe it or not, Settle's average was the Huskies' lowest average for Huskie running backs as NIU ran all over the Chippewas in a 55-24 win. The victory is the Huskies' 18th consecutive win at Huskie Stadium, a school record.

NIU (4-1, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) ran for 407 yards in the win, and had 622 yards of total offense. Quarterback Jordan Lynch had 144 rushing yards while Keith Harris Jr. got the ball late and finished with six carries for 67 yards. Akeem Daniels ran twice for 22 yards.

It was Settle who was NIU's workhorse, running the ball 23 times, and his 152 yards are a career-high. Three of the junior's runs went for touchdowns.

An offensive line that was possibly the Huskies' biggest question mark at the beginning of the season came up big. Central Michigan (2-2, 0-1 MAC) head coach Dan Enos said he didn't know what to expect from NIU's inexperienced group, but gave the unit a ton of credit for NIU's success.

"[Lynch] is the main reason, but I was very impressed with their offensive line. Coming into the game, I didn't quite know how good they would be," Enos said. "They're very good. I was very impressed with their offensive line and tight ends."

Lynch said the Chippewas tried to take away the passing game, adding that one of NIU's goals was to run for over 200 yards.

The Huskies reached the milestone with no problem.

NIU head coach Dave Doeren said eight guys rotated up front, and NIU's second-year head coach noted the group is ahead of where he thought they would be.

"When you run for 400 yards, I don't know how you can't be happy," Doeren said. "They're protecting our quarterback, he's not getting hit a lot in the pass game. We do a good job, I think Rod Carey does a phenomenal job just mixing up things with the launch point and different protections and making it tough defensively. You can't blitz a lot with the run game we have."

Defensively, the Huskies forced two big turnovers. Coming into the contest, NIU hadn't gotten a takeaway in three games against a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

Senior defensive end Sean Progar intercepted a Ryan Radcliff pass in the third quarter while safety Dechane Durante recovered a Zurlon Tipton fumble in the fourth. Both turnovers led to Huskie touchdowns.

When Progar picked off Radcliff, Central Michigan had the ball in the red zone, and was down just six points.

"Sean, to kind of get the ball rolling there with the interception was a huge play in the game," Doeren said.

NIU continues MAC play next Saturday, when the Huskies will head to Ball State. Kickoff is 2:00 p.m. CT.

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