Brendon Levengood had never kicked a field goal longer than 38 yards.
On Saturday, he made four.
The UMass kicker topped his career high with a 42-yarder on the first drive against No. 21 Northern Illinois, then he broke it with a 46-yarder on the Minutemen's next possession. Levengood made two more field goals from 40 yards or more for one of UMass' only bright spots in a 63-19 loss to the Huskies.
"Once he made that first kick, you could see the confidence in his eyes," UMass coach Charlie Molnar said. "I feel really good today coming off the field about our kicker. ... He gave our team a boost today."
In his first game since taking over the placekicking duties from Blake Lucas, who was 3 for 10 on field goals to start the season, Levengood was 4 for 4 with one extra point. The UMass senior kicked off as a freshman and was a placekicker the next two years before giving up those duties to Lucas.
"I was excited just to get the chance to get back in there and get kicking again," Levengood said. "At the beginning of the week, coach Molnar said it was a competition between Blake and I to see who was kicking this week, and I just went out there and kicked well."
Jordan Lynch ran untouched up the middle for a 19-yard score for his third touchdown run in the first quarter for Northern Illinois. Lynch also scrambled for a third-quarter score, rushing for 119 yards and four TDs in all.
"I'm a quarterback first," said Lynch, who entered the game leading all active FBS players in career rushing yards. "I don't like to run first. But I feel like if I'm going to force something, I'd rather just use my legs and find the hole."
The Huskies (9-0, 5-0 Mid-American Conference) scored touchdowns on their first five possessions and six of their seven drives in the first half. Cameron Stingily rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown, and Tommylee Lewis also ran one in for Northern Illinois.
One week after accounting for six touchdowns — four passing, one rushing and one receiving — Lynch had a hand in five more, completing 10 of 14 passes for 160 yards and throwing for at least one touchdown for the 22nd consecutive game. He played one possession in the third quarter, scoring on an 11-yard run, before sitting down.
"He makes it all go because all your focus as a defense is on Jordan," Molnar said. "You could see him on one-on-ones that he killed us today. He should be in the conversation for a Heisman candidate and that football team should be in the conversation for a BCS bowl game."
Backup Drew Hare connected with Chad Beebe on an 81-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and followed it with a 47-yard TD run to make it 63-19.
"I think the start was the key," Huskies coach Rod Carey said. "And again we started fast in the second half."
Playing without injured No. 1 quarterback A.J. Doyle, UMass (1-8, 1-4) lost its third consecutive game. Backup Mike Wegzyn, who lost the starting job earlier in the season, completed 10 of 25 passes for 169 yards and Lorenzo Woodley ran 38 times for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Wegzyn also threw two interceptions, the first at the Minuteman 20 on the second play of the second quarter that Huskies defensive lineman Ken Bishop ran to the 6. Two plays later, Stingily ran it in to make it 28-6.
UMass drove 83 yards to score its only touchdown on a 1-yard run by Woodley, cutting the deficit to 15 points. But on the Huskies' next play, Lynch hit Juwa Brescacin for a 66-yard touchdown.
UMass stopped Lynch for just the second time on the Huskies' first possession of the second half. The Minutemen blocked a 44-yard field-goal attempt, but after defensive end Brandon Potvin picked up the loose ball he fumbled and the Huskies' Jared Volk recovered for a fresh set of downs.
"We play the next play. We have a short memory," Carey said. "I can tell you that I was not happy with the blocked field goal. I'd rather not have to play that way there. But it was good to see them (the Huskies) come back."
Northern Illinois left tackle Tyler Loos injured his left leg in the third quarter and taken off on a stretcher. Carey said he would remain in the Boston area for a few days to have surgery, but he did not elaborate on the injury.
"I'm a little too emotional to talk about that," Carey said. "I know he's in good hands."