OXFORD, OH -- The Northern Illinois Huskies flexed their ground game muscle and continued a long run of success against MAC East teams with a 45-12 victory over the Miami RedHawks Saturday at Yager Stadium.
Northern Illinois (4-3, 2-1 MAC) has not lost a regular season game to a MAC East opponent in six seassons. The Huskies jumped on Miami (1-6, 0-3) with 21 first quarter points and added another 24 points in the second half.
Junior running back Joel Bouagnon recorded three of five NIU touchdowns on the day as he used 14 carries to provide 134 of 314 Huskie rushing yards on the day. Northern Illinois entered the contest ranked second among MAC teams in rushing (184.2 ypg). Miami, meanwhile, came in ranked eighth in rush defense (177.3).
"Defensively, it comes down to (us) misfitting run plays," Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. "Northern does a good job with all the jets and motions. ... We made some plays, but we missed an inordinate amount of plays."
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Bahl, a true freshman who had thrown seven interceptions over his last two starts, tossed just one this time out. That went to defensive back Shawun Lurry, a sophomore who entered the weekend as the Football Bowl Subdivision interception leader. It was his seventh pick of the season and marked the fifth straight contest in which he has recorded at least one interception.
Down 21-3 intermission, Miami got two points off the second half kickoff when the NIU receiver took the kick at the one and retreated into the zone before kneeling down for a safety. Reviews confirmed the ruling and Northern was forced to kick to MU.
Starting at their own 36, the RedHawks used eight plays ro reach NIU's 16-yard line. When Bahl threw into the corner of the end zone on the next play, Lurry picked it off and returned the ball 47 yards. On the very next play, Bouagnon broke loose on a 53-yard TD run, effectively reversing the entire field in two plays. It also reversed Miami's momentum as the visitors took a 28-5 advantage.
NIU tacked on one Christian Hagan field goal at 2:28 of the third stanza and had another try blocked early in the final period.
The Huskies then forced a Miami punt, but the RedHawks Josh Dooley recovered Marlon Moore's fumble on the return. That set the hosts up at Northern's 34. Leonard Ross's three-yard rush converted a fourth-and-one to keep MU's drive alive, and Bahl hit the streaking McRae over the middle three plays later to give Miami its first touchdown since a 20-14 loss at Kent State Oct. 3. According to Martin, it was the same play Bahl misfired on for s first half incompletion.
NIU's Jordan Huff scored on a three-yard run at 4:35 and freshman Marcus Jones broke through for a 73-yard TD scamper at 2:19 as both teams added substitutions.
"Overall, I was pretty pleased," Carey said. Quarterback Drew Hare "was doing a good job, the running game got going with Joel and Jordan, and the defense gave up 10 points - and the touchdown was after a fluke turnover on the punt. Overall, our pressure was good and the defense put our offense in good position."
Hare, who scorched Miami for 185 yards rushing in last year's meeting, netted two yards on the ground this time. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 203 yards with one touchdown. That score, a 32-yard pass play to Tommylee Lewis breaking clear down the left sideline, followed a Bouagnon 22-yard TD run to open scoring. Bouagnon then added another 22-yard score with 1:32 left in the first period.
Kaleb Patterson's 36-yard field goal for Miami at 5:32 of the second period was the only other score before intermission. Patterson was one of two on field goal tries.
Bahl, meanwhile, also showed some improvement from the previous week. He completed 16 of 33 for 156 yards with one TD and one interception.
"I watched a lot of film this week and knew what they were going to do," Bahl said. "Being a freshman and inexperienced, I hvae to get it on tape more and prepare better. ... I think I've improved a little bit. I still need to get a lot better for us to start winning games."
Freshman James Garner and junior Fred McRae IV had two catches each, with 49 and 43 yards, respectively.
"We ran the ball better than we had in three weeks," Martin said. "We (also) made some plays in the passing game ... but moving the ball and scoring points are two different things."
Miami faces another MAC West contender next Saturday for one of two remaining road games. Northern Illinois is home against Eastern Michigan Saturday for a homecoming tilt at Huskie Stadium.