SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Rain couldn't stop them. Mud only slowed
them. Even the gloom of night was no obstacle to a landmark victory
for coach Joe Novak and his Northern Illinois players.
Josh Haldi passed for 146 yards and ran for two touchdowns to
lead the Huskies to their first bowl win in 21 years, 34-21 over
Troy on Thursday night in the Silicon Valley Football Classic.
With backup tailback A.J. Harris rushing for 120 yards and a
score, Northern Illinois (9-3) overcame a steady downpour, lighting
problems and a delayed kickoff by scoring 34 straight points in
this unlikely postseason matchup of schools with one previous bowl
appearance between them.
The victory is a high point in Novak's quest to make Northern
Illinois into a mid-major powerhouse. They didn't get a bowl
invitation last year despite going 10-2 -- but for the first time
since winning the 1983 California Bowl, the Huskies have a trophy
to take back to DeKalb.
"We've taken another big step with our program," Novak said.
"We've still got things we want to do, but this is a great step
for everyone here. We're sending out a great group of seniors with
a victory in a bowl game, which is exactly what we wanted to do."
Garrett Wolfe, the NCAA's scoring co-leader, rushed for his 21st
touchdown of the season for Northern Illinois before leaving with a
But behind Harris and Haldi, the Huskies methodically erased a
quick start by the Trojans (7-5), who scored two touchdowns in the
first nine minutes of Troy's first bowl game in just its fourth
season in Division I-A. Troy allowed a season-high 213 yards
"A loss puts a damper on me, but it's not the end of the
world," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "We can't leave the
defense out there against a big offensive line and a great back."
DeWhitt Betterson rushed for 150 yards for the Trojans, and D.T.
McDowell threw a touchdown pass and rushed for two more scores. But
Troy got stuck in the mud at Spartan Stadium, unable to move the
ball effectively or stop the Huskies' rushing attack.
"Sometimes you start fast, and then run into bumps in the
road," Betterson said. "We were having success, but the condition
of the field took its toll on us."
Haldi and the Huskies overcame more than Troy's vaunted defense,
which was among the national leaders in several statistical
A day of intermittent rain left the Spartan Stadium field slick
and soaked, and though more than 21,000 tickets were distributed,
no more than 5,000 fans braved the miserable conditions.
In addition, an electrical transformer outside the stadium
malfunctioned shortly before kickoff, affecting the television crew
and two stanchions of lights. The game began 23 minutes late under
relatively dim lighting.
Yet both teams insisted on throwing long passes through the
rain. McDowell threw 10 straight incompletions at one point, and
Haldi was scarcely better -- but Northern Illinois mixed in enough
runs to keep moving consistently.
Troy curiously cast aside its usual offensive caution and opened
with aggressive downfield throws -- and for a little while, it
worked. On the game's seventh play, McDowell hit Jason Samples with
a 45-yard pass to the Northern Illinois 1 for the Trojans' longest
pass of the season.
McDowell scored on a keeper and then led another scoring drive,
hitting Richardson with a 23-yard screen pass. But Northern
Illinois responded with a 50-yard TD run by Wolfe.
"There was a little bit of concern, but once Garrett popped
that (run), we got back in the flow a little bit," Haldi said. "I
think it took a couple of series to get back to game speed, but
once we got going, we did pretty well."
After Haldi scored on the next drive, the rain limited both
offenses until Haldi scored again on a 1-yard keeper 34 seconds
Harris scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter, and
Chris Nendick kicked two field goals.