DEKALB, Ill. – [NIU news release] The Northern Illinois University Huskies recorded their first shutout in four seasons as they defeated Western Michigan, 24-0, on Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium. Antario Brown ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns while redshirt freshman Dane Pardridge of DeKalb returned a punt for a touchdown.
The last time NIU shut out an opponent was on Oct. 26, 2019, in a 49-0 victory over Akron. The Huskies held Western Michigan to just 206 yards of total offense, including 24 net rushing yards on 18 carries.
As a team, the Huskies rushed for 287 yards on 50 carries as freshman Jaylen Poe (Dallas, Ga./North Paulding) added 44 yards and Gavin Williams (Altoona, Iowa/Dowling Catholic/Iowa) ran for 40 in the second half. NIU converted 11-of-16 third downs in the contest.
“We probably played one of our best games of the season,” said NIU head coach Thomas Hammock. “In all three phases, offense, defense and special teams. Guys had each other’s back, they worked together, they stayed in the moment, and it is certainly something we can build on as we continue to go.”
NIU (5-6, 4-3 MAC) opened the scoring late in the first quarter as Brown found the end zone from a yard out. The touchdown capped a 13-play, 83-yard drive as Brown recorded five carries on the drive for 22 yards and gave NIU a 7-0 lead with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Huskies controlled the ball throughout the opening period, holding the ball for 13:17 as Western Michigan (4-7, 3-4 MAC) ran just five plays for 14 yards in the game’s first 15 minutes.
Brown scored his second touchdown of the contest midway through the second quarter as he broke free for a 66-yard score on the first play of the drive. It was Brown’s ninth touchdown of the season and his sixth of 45 yards or longer on the year as he recorded his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
NIU’s defense continued to dominate as Western Michigan produced just 63 yards of offense in the opening half.
The Huskies recorded four sacks and seven tackles for loss in the contest, including 1.5 tackles for loss from senior DaRon Gilbert (Detroit, Mich./Brother Rice/Lafayette), one of 14 seniors honored prior to the Huskies’ last home game.
Late in the third quarter, Pardridge caught a Western Michigan punt on the run, started right and cut back to the left into wide open space as he raced 55 yards for a touchdown. The score was NIU’s first punt return for a touchdown since Perez Ashford had a 44-yard score on Oct. 24, 2009, at Miami.
Kanon Woodill (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) added a 25-yard field goal on NIU’s first drive of the fourth quarter. Western Michigan drove to the NIU 15 on the following drive as they looked to end the shutout, but the Huskie defense stopped the Broncos on downs to end the threat.
“When we protect the ball, we are a hard team to beat,” said Hammock. “I think that is important because we are really good on defense, we play well on special teams. We went for an onside kick; we were going to be aggressive in this game to go win the game. They called a penalty, but we didn’t flinch, we kept pressing forward and that’s how we want to play football.”
Hayden Wolff went 18-of-31 through the air for 182 yards for Western Michigan. The Broncos gained just 24 rushing yards.
NIU will close the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 25, as the Huskies travel to Kent State.