No. 23 N. Illinois improves to 8-0
DE KALB, Ill. (AP) — Jordan Lynch had asked for three years to try the play.
On Saturday, the quarterback for No. 23 Northern Illinois got his wish, reversing roles with wideout Tommylee Lewis on a 17-yard touchdown in the second quarter as the Huskies rolled to a 59-20 victory over Eastern Michigan.
“We practice it every week, we just never called it,” said Lynch, who threw four touchdown passes. “It’s fun to do something like that, to act like a receiver. Anytime you bust out a trick play it’s fun.”
Lynch took the snap, handed off to Lewis and bolted for the end zone for his first career touchdown reception as the Huskies opened a 28-3 lead early in the second quarter.
The Huskies (8-0, 4-0 Mid-American Conference) reached their best start as a major program with the victory and never trailed on the way to a season-high in points and second-highest total offense (658 yards).
The Eagles (1-7, 0-4) lost their seventh straight.
Lynch, the nation’s No. 7 rusher entering Saturday, also ran for a touchdown while rushing 18 times for 99 yards. He was 16-of-20 passing for 223 yards while tying a career high with the four TD passes in less than three quarters.
Da’Ron Brown caught three passes for 28 yards and two scores.
Lewis, meanwhile, had eight catches for 107 yards to go along with the touchdown pass. He rushed four times for 81 yards, primarily on successful sweeps.
“All credit goes to our blocking on the outside,” Lewis said. “They opened up holes and I just ran right through them.”
Eastern Michigan’s Bronson Hill rushed 17 times for a team-high 66 yards while Brogan Roback got the start and was 7-of-17 passing for 109 yards in his lengthiest outing of the season.
The start is the best since Northern Illinois reached major college status in 1969. While a College Division team the Huskies went 10-0 in 1963 and started 9-0 in 1965.
It was the Huskies’ 24th straight home win, the nation’s longest active streak, and extended their conference-record 21-game MAC winning streak.
The Huskies had 229 net yards and scored three times in the opening quarter on the way to a 21-3 lead.
“I’m really happy with the win, happy with the way we started both halves,” Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said. “We came out quick and I was looking for that. ... We challenged ourselves for 60 minutes. I was really happy with the 60 minutes of football that we played.”
Northern Illinois marched 82 yards in 13 plays in its opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead after Lynch’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Brown.
On their second drive, the Huskies moved 80 yards in three plays with a 10-yard TD pass to freshman Joel Bouagnon for a 14-0 lead. Lynch made it 21-0 on a 30-yard touchdown run.
Eastern Michigan then saw a promising drive stall inside the Northern Illinois 10 and settled for a 25-yard field goal by Dylan Mulder.
Lynch made it 28-3 with a 17-yard touchdown reception from Lewis. Then, with 2:08 left in the half, Lynch fired a 16-yard touchdown strike to Juwa Brescacin as the Huskies opened a 35-3 lead. Matt Sims’ 28-yard field goal just before halftime made it 38-3.
Northern Illinois’ fast start initially left Eastern Michigan flat-footed.
“I thought they did a good job going out quick, they showed formations they had not shown and I thought it unnerved our guys a little bit,” Eagles coach Ron English said.
Eastern Michigan’s opening drive of the second half reached the Northern Illinois 15 but ended with a 38-yard field goal by Mulder.
Brown’s second touchdown pass — a 28-yard play with Lynch — made it 45-6.
The Eagles finally got into the end zone with 6:33 left in the third when Tyler Benz hit Tyreese Russell on a 9-yard touchdown pass that made it 45-13.
Redshirt freshman Matt Williams caught his first career touchdown pass, a 36-yard pass play from backup quarterback Matt McIntosh, as Northern Illinois opened a 52-13 lead.
Reserve quarterback Matt Hare’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Connors made it 59-13 early in the fourth. Eastern Michigan’s Ryan Brumfield closed the scoring a 5-yard touchdown run with 4:11 to play.
Before the game Northern Illinois officially opened a new $9.5 million indoor facility. The multi-purpose Chessick Practice Center features a full-size 120-yard practice field and amenities for other sports.
Both teams wore No. 2 decals on their helmets and observed a moment of silence before the game in memory of Eastern Michigan junior Demarius Reed, a Chicago native killed in a Oct. 18 shooting in Ypsilanti, Mich.