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Gophers drop to 1-3 with 34-23 loss to NIU

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)– Chad Spann ran for a career-high 223 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Northern Illinois past Minnesota 34-23 Saturday night.

Chandler Harnish threw touchdown passes to Martel Moore and Connor Flahive for the Huskies (2-2).

Adam Weber threw for a season-high 373 yards and a touchdown for Minnesota (1-3), which lost its third straight at home. The inconsistent Gophers hung with No. 20 USC for three quarters last week before losing 32-21, and lost 41-38 to South Dakota, an FCS team, two weeks ago.

Harnish and Flahive connected for a 2-yard score on fourth down early in the fourth quarter for a 27-16 Huskies lead.

Spann, whose previous high was 174 yards against Eastern Michigan last year, scored on a 61-yard run with 6:22 to play to clear out much of the crowd at TCF Bank Stadium. He had 106 rushing yards in the first half.

Harnish’s first touchdown pass, a 10-yarder to Moore with 3 seconds left in the first half, gave Northern Illinois a 20-13 lead.

Duane Bennett had 74 rushing yards for Minnesota. He had 299 yards in the Gophers’ first two games, but a sore ankle limited him to just six carries and 8 yards last week. Bennett’s 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was negated by a holding penalty.

He was stuffed on a fourth-down play at the Northern Illinois 21 to end the same drive. Spann made the game-clinching rumble up the middle three plays later.

Weber found MarQueis Gray for a 29-yard touchdown for Minnesota with 4:18 to play, but the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds.

Both teams were looking for momentum heading into next week’s conference openers — Minnesota at home to Northwestern in the Big 10 and Northern Illinois at Akron in the Mid-American.

Minnesota may not be favored in any of its eight Big Ten games — including five with ranked teams — making it difficult to avoid a third losing season in coach Tim Brewster’s four years. There were at least three “Fire Brewster” chants during the game.

It was the second straight strong performance against a Big Ten team for the Huskies, who lost 28-22 at Illinois last week, and are favored by many to win the MAC West Division.

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