(Saturday, December 18th)
Final Score: Northern Illinois 40, Fresno State 17
Boise, ID (Sports Network) - Chandler Harnish ran for two touchdowns and passed for another score, as Northern Illinois crushed Fresno State, 40-17, in the 14th annual Humanitarian Bowl.
Chad Spann added 95 rushing yards and a pair of TDs for the Huskies (11-3), who snapped a three-game skid in bowl games, having lost last season to South Florida in the International Bowl. Harnish connected on 17-of-26 passes for 300 yards and rushed for 72 more for Northern Illinois, which was coming off a loss to Miami-Ohio in the MAC championship game.
Tom Matukewicz, who guided the team as interim head coach, was given a celebratory punch bath by his players in the final seconds. Starting in 2011 Dave Doeren, who has spent the last five years as an assistant at Wisconsin, will take over the NIU football program. Jerry Kill left NIU to take the vacancy at Minnesota.
"Our motivation was through the roof," Tom Matukewicz said. "It couldn't have been better. We had a lot to play for. I feel sorry for Fresno because they hit the perfect storm."
Ryan Colburn threw for a pair of scores for the Bulldogs (8-5), who have lost three straight postseason games, including the previous two at the New Mexico Bowl. Colburn finished 28-of-38 for 288 yards.
The Bulldogs denied Harnish on a fourth down pass in Fresno State territory early in the first quarter, and NIU fell behind 7-0 courtesy of Colburn's 11- yard TD strike to Jamel Hamler with 5 1/2 minutes left in the stanza.
Harnish, though, completed a 39-yard pass to Martel Moore, and two plays later the junior QB scored on a seven-yard run. The extra point try was no good.
A 28-yard run by Harnish into the end zone early in the second quarter gave NIU the lead for good, and it became a nine-point margin after Michael Cklamovski's 45-yard field goal with over nine minutes left until halftime.
"Give Northern Illinois a lot of credit. They really took over the game after our first drive," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "We couldn't get much going on offense and we couldn't slow them down on defense. We knew they were a very good football team and they proved that tonight."
Kevin Goessling connected from the same distance inside four minutes to go for Fresno State, but Harnish found Kyle Skarb for a 22-yard score in the final minute of the half. NIU went to the break holding a 23-10 lead after Goessling missed poorly on a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Cklamovski split the uprights from 51 yards away early in the third and NIU capitalized on a fumble from Colburn on the next series. Spann powered into the end zone from 18 yards away for a 33-10 cushion late in the third.
Spann scored on an eight-yard run in the opening moments of the fourth before Colburn found Rashad Evans for an 11-yard TD pass with 5 1/2 minutes remaining to account for the final margin.
Northern Illinois set a record for wins in a single season...NIU moved to 3-3 all-time in Division I bowl games, having beaten Fullerton State (1983 California Bowl) and Troy (2004 Silicon Valley Bowl)...Fresno State, which made its 11th bowl appearance in the last 12 seasons, is 11-12 in postseason contests...NIU is 3-2 all-time against Fresno State...Robbie Rouse was held to 32 yards on 14 carries for Fresno State...Willie Clark and Moore each had 88 yards receiving for NIU, while Hamler had 87 on seven grabs for the Bulldogs.
12/19 01:36:16 ET