BOWLING GREEN -- Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish proved to be more than a handful for the Bowling Green State University football team.
Harnish finished the day with 445 yards of total offense, completing 16-of-26 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns while running for 151 yards and another score on 17 carries to lead the Huskies to a 45-14 win at Doyt Perry Stadium Tuesday.
Northern Illinois held onto its spot atop the Mid-American Conference's West Division with a 5-1 mark and now is 7-3 overall.
Bowling Green fell to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the MAC.
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"It all started with their offensive line," BG coach Dave Clawson said of the Huskies, who finished with 623 yards of total offense. "Their line is really, really good. And they blew us off the ball.
"They create so much space laterally with their formations and motion, [Harnish] has some big seams to run through. And he's big and athletic, and he's hard to bring down. He's a good player, and in this game he was better than us."
The scoring came fast and furious early, as the Falcons scored on their first play from scrimmage -- an 83-yard pass from quarterback Matt Schilz to wide receiver Kamar Jorden that was the Falcons' second-longest scoring play this season and longest pass play of the year.
Two plays later the Huskies tied the score as Harnish threw a strike down the middle to Willie Clark, and Clark raced 56 yards for the touchdown.
On their next possession the Falcons drove down to NIU's 37-yard line, but BG misconnected on a pass and failed to convert on a fourth-and-five play.
The Huskies drove for a touchdown to take the lead for good, taking advantage of a bad Falcon penalty to score on a 1-yard run by Jasmin Hopkins. The penalty came on a fourth-and-one play on BG's 2; Harnish seemed to be stopped short of the first down, but Ryland Ward was whistled for helmet-to-helmet contact on Harnish to give NIU the first down, and Hopkins scored three plays later.
Late in the first quarter the Huskies mounted another drive that resulted in points, rolling 64 yards on 10 plays before the drive stalled at the BG 7. Mathew Sims kicked a 23-yard field goal with 14:05 left in the first half to give the Huskies a 17-7 lead.
Late in the first half both teams drove for touchdowns that made the score 24-14 at the half. Northern Illinois scored first, driving 70 yards in seven plays. The big play on that drive was a 37-yard run by Harnish that moved the ball to the Falcons' 8, and Akeem Daniels scored on a 2-yard run two plays later.
"We're a very good offense between the 20s, but we don't finish drives," Clawson said. "We had a big play early, but otherwise we didn't have anybody making big plays like Harnish made for us."
Bowling Green matched that score by driving 64 yards on eight plays, thanks in part to a 22-yard fourth-down completion from Schilz to Jorden that pushed the ball down the NIU's 13. On the next play Schilz hit Jorden over the middle for the score.
Jorden had six catches for 143 yards and two TDs in the first half and finished with eight grabs for 152 yards. Schilz completed 22-of-38 passes for 255 yards.
The two teams exchanged four punts in a slugglish start to the second half before the Huskies used a long strike for a quick score. NIU got the ball on its 21 and Harnish found Daniels alone behind the BG secondary for a 79-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
"We held them for a time, but when they hit the long pass, the dam broke," Clawson said.
Northern Illinois forced Bowling Green to punt, and the Huskies put the game on ice with a 13-play, 68-yard drive that saw Harnish run the ball five times for 27 yards and complete 2-of-3 passes for 20 more yards. Harnish scored on a 5-yard touchdown run on his last play of the night.
Even though Harnish left early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies weren't done scoring. Back-up quarterback Jordan Lynch engineered a six-play, 74-yard drive that he capped with a 37-yard scoring strike to Clark.
NOTE: Bowling Green punter Brian Schmiedebusch had a 73-yard punt in the second quarter, his second-longest this season. Schmiedebusch had an 81-yard punt at Idaho.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.