The Chippewas and Huskies combined for 604 yards of offense during a first half that saw CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour catch a touchdown pass, Antonio Brown return a kickoff 90 yards for a score and the CMU defense post a pair of goal-line stands.
Central Michigan improves to 2-3 overall with the win, matching its five-game start of a year ago. The Chippewas are 2-0 in MAC West Division play, one-half game ahead of Ball State. CMU and Ball State meet in Muncie, Ind. next Saturday.
All 45 points in CMU's 35-10 win on Saturday were scored before halftime.
Northern Illinois (1-4 overall, 0-2 MAC, 0-2 MAC West) held the ball for 17 plays and more than six minutes on the game's opening possession before facing a fourth-and-goal at the CMU 4-yard line. A low snap, however, forced Chris Nendick to miss a 21-yard field goal.
Just four snaps later, Justin Hoskins broke off left tackle for a 40-yard touchdown run that staked CMU to a 7-0 lead.
NIU again moved inside the CMU 5-yard line on the ensuing possession. On third-and-goal from the one, Red Keith forced a Justin Anderson fumble that Frank Zombo covered for the Chippewas.
LeFevour completed 5-of-6 passes to move the Chippewas out of the shadow of their own goal line. On second-and-10 from the NIU 32, LeFevour handed the ball to Duane Brooks on what looked to be an end-around to the right side. Brooks, a converted quarterback now playing receiver, threw the ball back to the left side of the field to a wide-open LeFevour for a touchdown.
The Brooks-to-LeFevour scoring toss was the first of four touchdowns in a span of 2:07.
A penalty on the kickoff forced the Huskies to start at their own 8-yard line. On the first snap, Dan Nicholson threw a 92-yard touchdown pass to Matt Simon that cut the CMU lead in half.
Antonio Brown returned NIU's kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, breaking to the left hash mark and just beating a member of NIU's kickoff team to the left pylon in the end zone. It was Brown's first kickoff return for a score.
Victor Doman forced a fumble that Tim Brazzel recovered for CMU on the ensuing kickoff, and the Chippewa offense needed just five plays to hit paydirt again. LeFevour scored on a quarterback sneak from the two on the first play of the second quarter, and Andrew Aguila's fourth point-after stretched the CMU lead to 28-7.
NIU pieced together a 16-play drive following LeFevour's score, but had to settle for a 25-yard Nendick field goal. Hoskins scored on a 5-yard run to cap CMU's next possession and close the scoring for the half.
The CMU offense was forced to punt six times in the second half, but the defense intercepted four passes and forced the Huskies to turn the ball over on downs twice in the final two quarters.
LeFevour was 18-of-27 for 172 yards through the air, ran nine times for 42 yards and a touchdown and caught the 32-yard scoring toss from Brooks in the win. Hoskins established new careers with 14 carries for 93 yards and two scores.
Brown, along with the 90-yard kickoff return, led CMU in receiving with seven catches for 74 yards.
Keith paced the CMU defense, collecting 10 tackles and his sixth career interception. Chaz West, Victor Doman and Jonathan Lapsley also intercepted passes in the second half.
CMU now plays five of its final seven games on the road, beginning with next weekend's trip to Ball State. Kickoff is set for noon. ESPN Regional will air next weekend's contest on the same affiliates that carried the CMU-Northern Illinois matchup.
Chippewas Top Northern Illinois, 35-10
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