Northern Illinois led Toledo by 10 points in the first quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter on Thursday night, and yet, the Huskies knew Toledo wouldn’t go away. In fact, Dwight Macon’s 3-yard touchdown with 2:14 remaining brought Toledo within 27-24.

“Going into the game, we knew it was going to be a 60-minute game,” Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare said on Ferrall on the Bench. “You can never let up, especially against Toledo. It’s always a good game between the two schools. So give credit to their program. They played their hearts out. Our team did a great job as well.”

Ultimately, Northern Illinois held on for the three-point win.

Hare had the Huskies rolling early, as he found Da’Ron Brown for a 64-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-0 with 5:24 to go in the first quarter.

“He did all the work,” Hare said. “I just threw the 5-yard hitch and he made a guy miss. In the open field, the guy’s blazing fast. He did the rest.”

Brown finished with three catches for 73 yards, and Hare finished 14-of-22 for 190 yards.

Cameron Stingily, meanwhile, led the way on the ground, carrying 21 times for 81 yards and two scores. Both of his touchdown runs came within the 5-yard line, and Northern Illinois rushed 46 times for 226 yards – 4.9 yards per carry.

“Every week Cam brings it,” said Hare, who had 16 carries for 66 yards. “He’s a great running back. The guy’s hard to tackle. Anytime watching him go one-on-one with somebody, it’s a good matchup.”

Hare, who is from St. Louis, was lightly recruited as a high school junior but attended a 7-on-7 camp at Northern Illinois this summer. The Huskies liked what they saw and offered him a scholarship on the spot. A few weeks later, Hare committed.

“I had my one offer and I went with it,” Hare said.

The Huskies (8-2, 5-1) are sure happy he did. They’ve won four straight and five of six. Northern Illinois plays at Ohio (5-5, 3-3) on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

“That’s the only thing that’s going to be on anybody’s minds around here the next few days,” Hare said. “We’’ll take care of business there.”

Northern Illinois then closes the regular-season at Western Michigan (6-3, 4-1) on Friday, Nov. 28. The Huskies are currently atop the MAC-West division, but Toledo, Western Michigan and Central Michigan (6-4, 4-2) are all within striking distance.

Indeed, the MAC is solid once again this year – despite what some people say about it.

“We hear this stuff,” Hare said. “But at the same time, we know in this conference every game, every team, everybody plays great. The difference between the top and the bottom isn’t very much.”

For now, though, Hare will enjoy this win over Toledo, especially since it gave Northern Illinois the inside track to a conference championship.

Said Hare, “It kept our dreams alive.”

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