DE KALB, Ill. (AP) -- On a windy day that made it perilous to pass, Northern Illinois made sure its ground game was at peak efficiency in beating Akron 27-10 Saturday.
Tailback Chad Spann scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and rushed for a game-high 125 yards while quarterback DeMarcus Grady ran for 109 more as the Huskies (5-3, 3-1 Mid-American) came from behind to win.
Stiff westerly winds reaching 30 m.p.h. made passing and kicking a challenge.
"You coach the Bears, you coach here or you coach at Northwestern, you better be able to run the ball," Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill said. "Because you're going to have days like this."
Spann's 28-yard touchdown run with 13:35 to play erased a 10-6 deficit. He added a 2-yard scoring run with 7:59 showing to give the Huskies a 20-10 lead, and teammate Nathan Palmer scored on a 7-yard run with 46 seconds to play.
"We're a big running team, and everyone on the sideline said we needed to get the running game going," Spann said. "I was just trying to get a first down (on the first score), but I got some great blocks downfield from our wide receivers. They don't get enough credit for what they do."
Zips freshman quarterback Patrick Nicely had a respectable collegiate debut, going 11 of 27 for 124 yards despite the wind.
"He has a long way to go, but I think he's going to be a really good player," said coach J.D. Brookhart, whose Zips (1-7, 0-4) have lost six straight.
Akron mounted only one successful second-half drive as it claimed a 7-6 lead just after intermission. But it wasn't Nicely who made the biggest pass play of the day. It was running back Alex Allen.
Allen took a pitch from Nicely and connected with wide receiver Andre Jones for an 80-yard touchdown with 5:25 left in the third to give Akron a 10-6 lead. Jones had six catches for 154 yards.
"That halfback pass was a huge play, a real shift in momentum," Brookhart said. "It really felt at that point that we were in pretty good shape. (It appeared) it was going to be a tight game until the end, but it stopped after that."
Mike Salerno hit two field goals as the Huskies built a 6-0 first-half advantage before the Zips' Branko Rogovich kicked a field goal early in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 6-3.
Grady finished 10 of 18 for 62 yards passing. Perez Ashford was his top target with four receptions for 30 yards.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)