MUNCIE, Ind. — Perseverence was the word of the week for Northern Illinois.
Throughout the season, the Huskies have had to persevere, often being forced to come from behind in the second half. NIU had two second-half comebacks prior to Saturday's game at Ball State.
Down nine points at one point in the fourth quarter Saturday at Scheumann Stadium, the Huskies were forced to erase another deficit. Like they have done so many times this season, the Huskies persevered, beating Ball State, 35-23.
Junior running back Akeem Daniels scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Lynch with 4:58 left in the game, and Lynch capped off the scoring with a 71-yard touchdown run for NIU (5-1, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
"I don't know if I could have picked a better word for the team," NIU head coach Dave Doeren said after the game. "I really thought (offensive coordinator) Rod Carey called some key plays there. The route to Akeem was a big-time call, and Jordan threw a great ball."
Lynch ran for 207 yards and scored three touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He was 16-for-23 passing for 195 yards and a touchdown.
The junior's third rushing TD of the game came on the play which has worked so well this season: the quarterback draw. Lynch took the snap, went right, got past the defensive line and was gone.
"There's only so much you can do to it before we take advantage of something else," Lynch said. "it's just a matter of time before I find a crease."
Ball State (3-3, 1-2 MAC) quarterback Keith Wenning had a busy day himself, going 42 of 71 through the air for 434 yards and a touchdown. Wenning's completion and attempt totals were both school records.
Wenning also made a couple of costly mistakes, throwing two interceptions. NIU safety Jimmie Ward had one of NIU's two interceptions, with Michael Santacaterina getting the other. Demetrius Stone recovered a fumble for NIU's third turnover of the game.
"Going into the game we knew they were going to go straight to pass," NIU safety Jimmie Ward said. "We had a whole bunch of man coverage and different type of schemes to kind of confuse the quarterback."
The Huskies defense bent at times, which is shown by Ball State's 563 yards of total offense, but NIU came up big when it needed to. The Huskies defense forced the Cardinals to attempt five field goals, two of which kicker Steven Schott missed.
"I thought the defense had a ton of huge stops today," Doeren said. "After momentum plays from their side of the ball we found a way to stand. ... Just really proud of the resiliency of our defense."fif