2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl - NIU 38, Ark St 20

Posted Jan 9, 2012

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl

2012 GoDaddy.Com

NIU vs. Arkansas State

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
24th Total Offense 9th
20th Total Defense 87th
27th Scoring Offense 13th
15th Scoring Defense 90th
55th Rushing Offense 8th
15th Run Defense 82nd
17th Passing Offense 60th
53rd Passing Defense 77th
25th Turnover Margin 51st
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
A   N
4 Quarterbacks 5
3.5 RBs 4
4 Receivers 3
3 O Line 5
4.5 D Line 2.5
4 Linebackers 3
3 Secondary 2.5
2.5 Spec Teams 2
3 Coaching 4.5
Northern Ililnois 38 … Arkansas State 20
(AP) MOBILE, Ala. -- Hobbled by a bum ankle, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish couldn't put on his usual one-man offensive show.

But the fifth-year senior knows when to delegate, and receiver Martel Moore was more than willing to pick up the slack.

Moore caught eight passes for 224 yards and a touchdown, and Northern Illinois rallied for a 38-20 victory over Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Sunday night.

The 6-foot-2, 182-pound junior from San Antonio, Texas, had 523 yards receiving all season until Sunday's monster performance. Harnish was more than happy to cede the spotlight.

"This is a storybook ending," Harnish said. "The way we came out and beat a great Arkansas State team is something we ought to be proud of."

The late-night game ended with a midnight celebration for the Huskies at midfield. It sure didn't start so well.

The Huskies trailed 13-0 late in the first quarter, but the Mid-American Conference champions scored 31 unanswered points on the way to their ninth straight victory. It was the third time this season Northern Illinois (11-3) rallied from a double-digit deficit to win.

Arkansas State (10-3) had its nine-game winning streak snapped. The Sun Belt champions couldn't overcome five turnovers -- including three interceptions thrown by Ryan Aplin.

Harnish completed 18 of 36 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns in his final college game. He came in as the nation's top rushing quarterback, averaging 106.3 yards per game, but was limited to minus-3 yards on the ground.

Arkansas State jumped out early, but the score was almost disappointing considering the Red Wolves had to settle for two short field goals instead of touchdowns. Brian Davis connected on kicks from 32 and 36 yards before Aplin scored on a 2-yard run.

The missed opportunities kept Northern Illinois close, and after some early trouble on offense, the Huskies made their move.

"We stopped beating ourselves and started playing our game," NIU coach Dave Doeren said. "Our coaches called an aggressive game and we made a couple of plays that swung the momentum. Two scores is nothing for us. We've been down way more than that this year."

Harnish hit Perez Ashford on a 9-yard touchdown pass two plays after a disputed spot on fourth down kept the drive alive, pulling the Huskies to 13-7 just before the end of the first quarter.

The Huskies briefly lost Harnish because of his injured left ankle early in the second quarter, but backup Jordan Lynch engineered a 7-play, 78-yard drive that ended with his 3-yard touchdown run. That gave NIU a 14-13 lead with 4:49 left in the first half.

Harnish returned to lead the Huskies on another touchdown drive just before halftime. Doeren gambled on the final play of the drive, going for the touchdown with 2 seconds remaining instead of a point-blank field goal try. It worked, as Jamal Womble plowed forward for a 1-yard touchdown that gave Northern Illinois a 21-13 halftime lead.

Arkansas State was called for a pivotal roughing-the-kicker penalty on a fourth down that extended the drive.

Arkansas State was coached by David Gunn, who took over in an interim role after Hugh Freeze left for Mississippi. Both Freeze and the Red Wolves' new coach -- former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn -- watched the game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, but were powerless to help as Northern Illinois rallied for the victory.

"Our kids came ready to play, and I am proud of them," Gunn said. "Many things have transpired over the last 30 days, but these young men have shown great resolve over that period of time."

Arkansas State briefly regained momentum early in the third quarter after Chaz Scales intercepted Harnish's pass, but Northern Illinois got the ball back three plays later when Jhony Faustin intercepted Aplin. On the next play, Harnish threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Moore to extend the lead to 28-13.

Arkansas State briefly pulled within 31-20 on Aplin's 16-yard touchdown pass to Stockemer, but Northern Illinois responded with an interception that Dechane Durante returned for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Aplin completed 30 of 58 passes for 353 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Taylor Stockemer caught 11 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.

"We had a couple of big plays early," Stockemer said. "But we just made a couple mistakes and got out of rhythm, and I don't think we ever got it back."

Northern Illinois' victory helped the MAC finish with a 4-1 record in bowl games.

Arkansas State (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois (10-3) Jan. 8, 9 pm, ESPN

Here's The Deal … It might be the opening act for BCS championship, but it just might be more entertaining and at least the two teams have a title.

Arkansas State and Northern Illinois are coming off the greatest seasons in the respective school histories, and each is among the hottest teams in the country coming into the bowl season.

While ASU's season has been special – going 10-2 and winning the Sun Belt title – all the new has been about what's coming next. Former head coach Hugh Freeze took over, won a championship, and parlayed the success into the Ole Miss head coaching job. As good as he was, the Red Wolves might be getting an upgrade in another rent-a-coach – former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Along with him might come booted former star running back, Michael Dyer, but that's for later. For now, interim head coach David Gunn is looking to guide the team to its first bowl win ever in its second bowl game ever. The last appearance was in 2005, when it lost to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl. But this team is far better and far more talented.

Led by star quarterback Ryan Aplin, the Red Wolves led the Sun Belt in total offense and scoring offense, while the defense was tops in the league in both total defense and scoring defense. There were a few close calls along the way early in road battles with Western Kentucky and ULM, but the team hit its stride after a dominant win over FIU and wasn't touched the rest of the way. ASU is on a nine-game winning streak, with no one coming closer than nine points over the last six games, but it's about to be in for its biggest fight since losing to Virginia Tech in mid-September.

Northern Illinois is looking to prove it can beat someone good. The MAC win over Ohio – who won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl over Utah State – was the bright shining moment for a program that was close to winning a title time and again, but couldn't get over the hump. Under first year head coach Dave Doeren, the Huskies blew up with the nation's eighth-ranked offense, but they were obliterated by Wisconsin, lost to a bad Kansas team, and inexplicably gaffed against Central Michigan on the way to a 2-3 start. And then came the run, winning eight straight to get to the program's fourth straight bowl and seventh all-time. Last year's Humanitarian win over Fresno State was the first bowl victory since 2004, and a win against ASU would match last year's 11-win total to only further establish the school's place as the star of the MAC.

Formerly the GMAC Bowl, the GoDaddy.com has a history of being awful, with the double overtime Central Michigan classic over Troy two years ago and the epic Marshall 64-61 win over East Carolina in 2001 the two exceptions. The MAC has won the last two over the Sun Belt, but this should be different. These are two dead-even teams that know how to win and have played at a high level all season long. It's also the second-to-last college football game of the season, so enjoy it now.

Why Arkansas State Might Win: The Red Wolves have the defensive back seven to keep the Northern Illinois offense in check. QB Chandler Harnish is terrific on the move and is great at breaking off big plays in chunks, and while the passing game is solid and efficient to provide balance, coming up with big runs is what the O is all about. Defense, however, has been what ASU is all about.

Senior Dorvus Woods is one of the Sun Belt's best defensive tackles, great at gumming up the works and quick enough to get into the backfield, while the back seven is loaded with veteran playmakers from linebacker Demario Davis to corner Darryl Feemster to strong safety Kelcie McCrae. All three are seniors, all can tackle, and all were First-Team All-Sun Belt performers. Illinois ran for 202 yards on ASU in the season opener, but no one else, including Virginia Tech, was able to come up with more than the 152 that Western Kentucky cranked out. ASU is too good and too disciplined to get gouged by the Huskies.

Offensively, ASU shouldn't have a problem moving the ball on a decent, but flawed NIU defense. The Red Wolvesh have been dialed in over the second half of the season, scoring 30 points or more in each of the last six games helped by a passing game that's dong a great job of pushing the ball down the field on a consistent basis. NIU got gouged by Toledo for 324 passing yards and five scores, and Buffalo and Central Michigan each fired away at will. Arkansas State will balance things out as much as possible, but it has an advantage against the shaky NIU defensive backs that has athleticism and upside, but is still very, very young. NIU gives up an average of 31 points per game, and ASU shouldn't have a problem hitting the mark.

Why Northern Illinois Might Win: Chandler Harnish. This isn't the dominant Northern Illinois team of last year with several areas still in development and still maturing, but it was good enough to roll though the MAC schedule on the way to the title. Why? Harnish might be the best quarterback no one has noticed. Ultra-effective, he not only ran for 1,382 yards, but he threw for 2,942 with 26 touchdowns and just five picks with his one poor game coming in the loss to Wisconsin.

He's been through it all, including last year's bowl win over Fresno State when he was utterly dominant completing 17-of-26 passes for 300 yards and a score, while rushing for 72 yards and two scores. Arkansas State might have the defense to focus in on Harnish, but that's what everyone tries to do and it doesn't matter. ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin might be terrific, but Harnish is the signature star in this game and he could be good enough to be the difference.

ASU's defensive production starts with a tremendous pass rush that generates production from several spots. NIU, though, has one of the best offensive lines in the country in terms of pass protection. Part of it comes from Harnish and his decision-making ability and mobility, and part of it is because the line is dominant with four senior starters and a junior. The Red Wolves haven't faced two better offensive linemen this year than NIU left tackle Trevor Olson and center Scott Wedige, and they haven't been pushed by a ground game like this one.

Yes, the Huskie defense gives up too many yards, and yes, it's not great at stopping balanced offenses, but the team knows how to win shootouts and come through in close games. Time after time, the Huskies were able to come up big in the clutch with five wins by six points or fewer. There won't be any panic if ASU's offense is moving.

What To Watch Out For: At 6-1 and 205 pounds, Ryan Aplin isn't big and he doesn't have a huge arm, but he spreads the ball around well, is great on the move, and he's steady. Like Harnish, the ASU quarterback leads his team in rushing with 605 yards and nine scores – including four in the win over Florida Atlantic – and while he throws too many interceptions, he also bombed away for 3,235 yards and 18 touchdowns. He's not afraid to push the ball down the field and take a few chances, and while that's led to 30 interceptions in his first three years, it also means he comes up with a slew of big plays. No, he's not Harnish, but he's a pure baller.

Arkansas State has the better defense, and NIU has an even bigger task without two of its best defensive players. End Sean Progar earned Second-Team All-MAC honors after making 52 tackles with 5.5 sacks, but he was suspended for the game after being nailed with a DUI. Also out is the team's defensive MVP, tackle Ron Newcomb, who made 59 tackles with 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, but he got hurt in the MAC title game and is out. That means leading tackler Pat Schiller might have to do even more after coming up with 108 tackles on the year. The 6-2, 234-pound senior was limited last year with a knee injury, but he stayed healthy, proved he could handle the work in the middle, and turned into a rock. He'll have to work as a spy to keep Aplin in check.

ASU's 6-3, 255-pound senior Brandon Joiner came in from the JUCO ranks to come up with a nice 2010, and then he turned his game up a few notches this year leading the Sun Belt with 12 sacks to go along with 40 tackles. A star at getting into the backfield for Navarro College, he originally signed with Texas A&M and plays like a good BCS-league defender. NIU doesn't give up many sacks and doesn't allow much pressure, but Joiner will test that.

What Will Happen: The loss of Progar and Newcomb will be a huge problem for the Huskies. The defensive line wasn't a strength to begin with, and while the D was coming on late in the year, it's about to have a problem against a jacked up ASU team that's playing as well as any non-BCS team in college football. The defense will swarm Harnish and keep him under wraps, while the Red Wolves will control the clock with more balance than usual. It'll be a high-scoring game with ASU's defense coming up with the stops needed late to hold on.

CFN Prediction: Arkansas State 38 … Northern Illinois 31
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Arkansas State -1.5   O/U: 62

Confidence Picks
Fiu Rich Matt Russ Barrett Terry Phil Clucko PICK
NI (18) NI (34) NI (24) NI (15) AS (11) NI (19) NI (3) AS (8) NI (94)

E-mail Pete Fiutak
#CFBnews & #ColFootballNews
This is a terrific matchup between two conference champions. Dave Doeren is still the head coach in DeKalb, and Hugh Freeze is the new head man at Ole Miss. That'll be the difference in a very, very good game. 

By Richard Cirminiello 
Chandler Harnish vs. Ryan Aplin will exceed expectations as far as quarterback battles go.

By Matt Zemek
Northern Illinois faced an interim coach situation in its 2010 bowl game and won. Now the Huskies will face an opponent going through the same process.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
The Huskies finished off its first conference title in 43 years, and complete its dream season in style.

By Terry Johnson
NIU's Chandler Harnish and Arkansas State's Ryan Aplin might not be household names, but they will be by the time this game is over. Both Harnish (8th) and Aplin (10th) rank in the top ten in total offense, and can beat opposing defenses with their arm and their legs.  

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
And this game is on January 8th why? It's the Sun Belt champion vs the MAC champion and the scoreboard operator might want to grab some snacks and get the potty break out of the way early.
Best Bowl Moments

Best Huskie Bowl Moment: There wasn't much involved in the way of drama or many style points, but Northern Illinois' 34-21 win over Troy in the 2004 Silicon Valley Classic was a landmark victory for a program that was breaking a 21-year postseason dry spell. That win slightly outranks last year's inspired – and inspiring – blowout of Fresno State just two weeks after coach Jerry Kill took the Minnesota job.

Best Red Wolf Bowl Moment: The only bowl Arkansas State has played in was a rather meager affair. The 2005 New Orleans Bowl wasn't even played in New Orleans due to the damage done inside the Superdome by Hurricane Katrina. ASU lost to Southern Mississippi on the campus of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. This time, Arkansas State gets to throw a real party by celebrating its first outright Sun Belt Conference championship.

GoDaddy (GMAC) History
2011 Miami Univ. 35, Middle Tennessee 21
2010 Central Michigan, 44, Troy 51 2OT
2009 Tulsa 45, Ball State 13
2008 Tulsa 63, Bowling Green 7
2007 Southern Miss 28, Ohio 7
2005 Toledo 45, UTEP 13
2004 Bowling Green 52, Memphis 35
2003 Miami-Ohio 49, Louisville 28
2002 Marshall 38, Louisville 15
2001 Marshall 64, East Carolina 61
2000 Southern Miss 28, TCU 21
1999 TCU 28, East Carolina 14
2009 Georgia 24, Michigan State 12

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