NIU runs for 168 yards in third quarter as legs of Harbison and Childers lead way.
DeKALB – Toledo outrushed Northern Illinois in the first half, but the Huskies left no chance of that happening again in the second half of Wednesday’s 38-15 win.
After running for 83 yards in the first half, NIU (7-3, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) came out of the locker room with a 17-9 lead after halftime and ready to push the ball down the field between the tackles.
On 19 runs in the third quarter, NIU piled up 168 yards, as Toledo (5-5, 3-3) was pressed to go repeatedly to the air.
NIU marched 69 yards in four plays on its third drive of the third quarter.
The drive was keyed by runs of 33 yards from running back Tre Harbison and 23 by quarterback Marcus Childers, the latter for a score.
[Photos by Sean King for Shaw Media]
Harbison concluded the evening with 139 yards and Childers added 58 yards more to go with a 13-of-19, 131-yard passing game.
NIU ran for 296 yards total. Marcus Jones added a late touchdown run of 44 yards with 3:18 left to cross the 100-yard rush mark as well.
"We thought Tre early in the game, and we told him this, was running a little high, maybe cutting before he had to," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "In the second half, he was running with his pads down, always running forward, which is good."
The Huskies began gobbling up yards on their first drive of the second half on runs of 20 from Harbison, another carry of 10 from Childers and a 17-yard rush from Jones.
NIU attempted only 11 plays and covered 82 yards as Childers pulled away from a fake handoff and waltzed into the end zone for a 24-9 NIU lead with 8:18 left in the third quarter.
"It's really our O-line and tight ends. They were moving guys," Harbison said. "If you got a hole that big I feel anyone can run through those holes. They were playing relentless there out there."
With NIU leading by a point late in the second quarter, Sutton Smith rushed off the edge to block an attempted rugby-style punt, recovery and 27-yard touchdown for a 17-9 lead with 1:47 left in the first half.
Smith’s ninth sack of the season and forcing a fumble produced a Toledo punt that gave NIU possession on Toledo’s half of the field late in the first quarter, leading to the Huskies’ first score.
NIU went on a five-play, 46-yard drive. Childers scrambled left out of the pocket on third down and hit Corey Lersch for a 33-yard score in which the tight end broke a tackle and rumbled 23 yards after the catch for a 7-3 Huskies lead wth 0:36 left in the first quarter.
After a drive of 62 yards on 12 plays, the Huskies added on when Andrew Gantz’ 48-yard field goal sailed through the uprights.
Undeterred, Toledo marched 75 yards in seven plays with Jon’Vea Johnson’s leaping, contested catch pulling the Rockets within one before Toledo’s Jameson Vest missed the fifth extra point of his career.
The Huskies came up short of a first down on their opening drive when Harbison was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from their own 44.
On Toledo’s next possession, Peters completed a throw to a falling Cody Thompson on third-and-8 to the NIU 10-yard line. Peters completed only one of his next three passes as the Huskies held Toledo to a Vest 25-yard field goal.
Facing another chance to score on its next possession after a Jauan Wesley catch and fumble and Justin Clark recovery, Vest pushed a 36-yard field goal wide right.
"Getting down to the red zone twice and coming away with just three points, I though that wasn't deflating, but it's a major moment in the game," Toledo coach Jason Candle said. "You want to get seven points. You want to capitalize on those opportunities and we weren't able to."
Repeatedly, the Huskies pressured Peters and despite coming up with only one sack in the first half, ended the night with five, led by Jack Heflin bullrushing his way to 2.5 sacks.
At near even in yardage, Toledo outgained NIU, 222-218, and was 6 of 12 on third down, but field position and the blocked punt made all plenty difference for the Huskies.
Toledo tacked on a late score with 3:27 left on a 1-yard run by Shakif Seymour.