DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — Chandler Harnish helped give new Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren a win in his debut.
Harnish tossed a career-high five touchdown passes and rushed for another to lead the Huskies to a 49-26 victory over Army in Doeren’s head coaching debut on Saturday.
“It feels good,” he said. “But at the same time in there are a lot of things in the course of the game that you need to work on. I was a little sloppy with the ball tonight.”
Harnish threw for three TDs in the opening 18 minutes as the Huskies (1-0) took a 28-6 lead on the Black Knights (0-1).
“We didn’t give them our best shot and that’s my fault,” Army coach Rich Ellerson said. “We pride ourselves on being a poised, precise outfit and we were anything but at times and that’s hard to take. We’re not there, but we’ll get there.”
Courtney Stephen started Northern’s big scoring day when he scooped up a block punt for a 16-yard touchdown run.
“The start of that game couldn’t be any better,” Doeren said. “Three and out on defense, a blocked punt for a touchdown. It’s as good as it gets … and the first three quarters with the starters in the game, those guys played really well.”
The win was Northern Illinois’ first over a service academy in four tries. The Huskies dropped a 21-14 decision at Army in 1992 and lost both games of a home-and-home series with Navy in 2007 and 2008.
Huskies’ tailback Jasmin Hopkins rushed 14 times for 138 yards.
Doeren, a former Wisconsin assistant, took over as Northern Illinois head coach last December following Jerry Kill’s departure for Minnesota.
Harnish also ran for a touchdown and he capped his day with a 4-yard toss to Martel Moore that put NIU up 49-6.
Army scored three straight TDs in the fourth quarter.
Doeren became the first head coach to win a Northern Illinois debut game since Jerry Pettibone’s 1985 squad beat Western Michigan 17-0.
Jamal Womble, Martel Moore, Akeem Daniels, Nathan Palmer and Luke Eakes each caught touchdown passes for the Huskies, who set a school record for wins by going 11-3 last season.
“All credit goes to those wideouts, the running backs, they made some great catches and did well with open space too,” Harnish said. “They were able to get yards after the catch. Those guys did all the work. I just had to put it in the spot.”
Ellerson, opening his third season, guided the Black Knights to a 7-6 record in 2010 and their first bowl victory since 1985. Army beat SMU 16-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
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