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Sports

Northern Illinois returns to winning form

DeKALB - A historic occasion merits a noteworthy performance. Saturday afternoon, Northern Illinois displayed flashes of the form that helped past teams claim a share in four of the last five Mid-American Conference West Division titles. In the 100th Homecoming game, the Huskies had a dominating effort, hammering Temple 43-21 before 27,039 fans at Huskie Stadium. On a day when past alumni, such as New Orleans Saints nose guard and former Huskie Hollis Thomas in attendance, the Huskies provided ample highlights to fill this week's Inside Huskie Sports television show. The winless Owls were the perfect astringent for the Huskies. Last week, the NIU offense looked apathetic against Western Michigan's stout defense. The defeat knocked Northern Illinois out of second place in the West, and questioned whether the Huskies could snare a bowl bid. The Huskies answered their critics with an impressive showing in the first three quarters before allowing a late Temple surge. &#8220It's good to get a win,” said NIU coach Joe Novak. The Huskies (5-3) got back on the winning track with an opportunistic, big-play defense. The Owls (0-8) started the game with a 12-play, 30-yard drive, but that was the extent of Temple's offense until late in the third quarter. Defensive end Larry English contributed to Temple's offensive woes, recording a school-record four and a half sacks. The sophomore spent most of the afternoon hounding Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele. The Owls were limited to 62 yards on 32 plays midway through the third. The NIU defense finished with six sacks, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles. Melvin Rice capped the game with an interception on the last play. The defense had a few brief hiccups late in the game to allow the Owls to score their most points in a game this season. DiMichele, a last-minute replacement for starter Vaughn Charlton, compiled 135 of his 322 yards passing in the fourth quarter. However, the NIU offense might need a realignment before next week's tilt at Iowa. Kicker Chris Nendick spent more time on the field than Garrett Wolfe. Nendick tied a school-record with five field goals in seven attempts. The inability of the offense to find the end zone contributed to a closer-than-expected final score. As a result, Wolfe moved further out of the Heisman Trophy picture. Wolfe, who was held to 25 yards last week, finished with 17 rushes for 45 yards against the 117th-ranked rushing defense in the country. Wolfe, the nation's leader in rushing, all-purpose yards and scoring entering the game, didn't score a touchdown or catch a pass. Temple's front four manhandled NIU's offensive line with their aggressive approach. Wolfe had nine carries for three yards in the second quarter and sat out most of the second half because of NIU's double-digit lead. &#8220I thought our defense really played tough and we gave them all we could up front,” said Temple coach Al Golden. Novak said the Huskies still have to fix some problems on the O-line. The NIU coaching staff moved Jon Brost to right tackle and Matt Rogers to right guard before the game. &#8220They're getting overwhelmed at times,” Novak said of the offensive line. &#8220We're not holding up as well. Our quarterbacks took a lot of hits.” The Huskies tried to confuse the Owls by emphasizing the pass. Quarterback Phil Horvath started with five straight passes on NIU's first drive, and seven passes in the opening eight plays. Wolfe didn't touch the ball until the sixth play. Horvath shed some of his doubters by completing 18-of-28 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. &#8220They were stacking the box with seven or eight guys and we were getting out of the run and throwing the ball,” Horvath said. &#8220I think it's hard to run against something like that. I talked to coach (John) Bond and he said teams have been doing things he hasn't seen in his 21 years of coaching. They were game planning just for Garrett so we have to open up the passing. I think that's going to help Garrett in the end.” Horvath and Dan Nicholson combined to toss touchdown passes to four different receivers. Matt Simon, Greg Turner and Jarret Carter all caught their first career touchdown pass, with Britt Davis leading the corps with six receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. Nicholson looked impressive in his first game since the Indiana State victory. The sophomore completed 9-of-14 passes for 124 yards and two TDs. The special teams played a big part in the victory. Nendick racked up 19 points, Dustin Utschig's blocked punt led to a touchdown and punter Andy Dittbenner didn't see the field for the second time this year. Bobby Narang can be reached at bnarang@daily-chronicle.com.

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