BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- So much for Northern Illinois busting
up the Bowl Championship Series.
Bowling Green -- not Northern Illinois -- looked like the BCS contender in Saturday's win over the Huskies.
And goodbye to a shot at a major bowl bid.
Josh Harris threw for 438 yards and three touchdowns as Bowling Green handed Northern Illinois (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) its first loss
of the season, 34-18 on Saturday.
Harris was nearly unstoppable, breaking his career high for
passing yards in what might have been the biggest Mid-American
Conference ever. Only once before -- in 1973 -- had two MAC teams
ranked in the Top 25 met in the regular season.
The Huskies (7-1, 3-1 MAC) were just one of four unbeaten teams
in major college football coming into the week and were 10th in the
first BCS standings.
They had trailed in all but one of their victories this year,
including wins over Maryland, Iowa State and Alabama and had become
accustomed to falling behind early.
But they fell behind early and could never recover.
"We got our butt kicked," Huskies coach Joe Novak said. "All
season long we been following behind and sooner or later we
wouldn't catch up."
Northern Illinois had no answer for Harris, who picked apart the
defense with his short throws and his ability to scramble out of
Harris was 27-of-43 with two interceptions. He also was the
leading rusher with 89 yards.
His high-arching pass that hit Charles Sharon in stride for a
55-yard score put the Falcons up 34-10 with 2:46 left in the third
Harris stopped at midfield and pointed toward the sky, knowing
that he had all but sealed the victory in front of 31,007 -- the
first sellout at Bowling Green in 20 years.
"If there's a better quarterback in America, who is he?"
Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon asked.
Bowling Green (6-1, 3-0) scored on its first two possessions,
jumping out to 14-0 lead in the opening three minutes.
The first drive took just 1:58 with the key play coming on the
second of the game when Harris threw to Craig Jarrett over the
middle and he rumbled 47 yards. P.J Pope capped the drive with a
3-yard scoring run.
The Falcons struck even more quickly the next time they had the
ball, scoring in two plays. Harris threw to Pope over the middle
for 46 yards, and Harris found James Hawkins all alone for a
Three drives later, Harris threw a 17-yard scoring pass to a
leaping Charles Sharon that gave Bowling Green a 24-3 lead with
10:06 left in the first half.
Michael Turner, who came into the game for the Huskies as the
nation's second leading rusher averaging 132 yards a game, had just
87 yards on 18 carries.
Bowling Green's swarming defense gave Turner no room to move. He
broke free just once on a long run, but what appeared to be a
68-yard touchdown in the first half was called back by a holding
The Huskies also continually made mistakes that killed drives.
They had just three first downs in the first half and only began to
move the ball when they went to a no-huddle offense in the second
Josh Haldi threw a pair of interceptions and was ineffective for
much of the game. He finished 14-of-29 for 165 yards.
Novak wasn't about to dwell on the loss.
"We're 7-1 -- it's not like the season is over," Novak said.
Janssen Patton had three interceptions for Bowling Green.
Sharon had 123 yards receiving and Cole Magner had 100.
A year ago the roles were reversed. Bowling Green was undefeated
and ranked in the Top 25 until Northern Illinois knocked off the
"This is a great feeling, the exact opposite of last year,"
Harris said. "We wanted redemption."