BY STEVE NITZ
MUNCIE, Ind. — Northern Illinois avoided a potential trap at Ball State on Wednesday, winning 35-21 and setting up its Mid-America Conference showdown with Toledo.
Less than five minutes in, touchdown runs by Aregeros Turner and Cameron Stingily put the Huskies (7-2, 4-1 MAC) in excellent position. But Ball State (3-6, 2-3) bounced back, getting a one-yard scoring run by Jahwan Edwards in the first quarter and a 38-yard TD catch by Jordan Williams from Jack Milas in the second to knot it at 14.
A time-consuming drive gave Northern Illinois the lead back in the third quarter, and its defense stayed strong for the victory.
The Huskies completed a 14-play, 71-yard drive in which the offense clicked on all cylinders. The march was culminated by a one-yard run by Stingily, who scored three times in all and gained 148 yards on 26 carries.
The Huskies held Edwards, the Cardinals star tailback, in check, and frustrated first-year starting quarterback Milas. Edwards carried 21 times for 92 yards. Milas was intercepted three times and went 16-for-39 for 174 yards.
The final nail in the coffin for the Cardinals came early in the fourth. Huskies cornerback Anthony Brooks, who had made a good play by breaking up a pass on the previous play, read Milas perfectly, picked off his pass and raced untouched 21 yards into the end zone.
It was Brooks’ first career interception, and the first defensive touchdown of the season for NIU.
Stingily capped off the Huskies’ scoring with a two-yard run with 2:45 remaining.
NIU is in control of its own destiny in the Mid-America Conference West. The Huskies host West leader Toledo (6-3, 5-0 MAC) on Tuesday in DeKalb (ESPN2). Conference road games against Ohio U. and Western Michigan conclude the regular season. If they win out, the Huskies would play in the MAC championship game in Detroit for the fifth year in a row.