Northern Illinois receiver Da’Ron Brown knew he couldn’t let the game slip away like he just had done with the ball.
A long catch resulted in a red-zone fumble in the fourth quarter against Ball State, but Brown shook it off and listened to his quarterback – and himself.
“After the play happened, Jordan [Lynch] came back to me and said, ‘Don’t worry about. Let it go,’” Brown said Monday. “I listened to my teammates and my coaches. I understand that defenses are going to make some plays. The biggest thing is forget about it and move on.”
Brown moved the Huskies forward, snagging a momentum-swinging 36-yard touchdown pass from Lynch on the next possession for a seven-point lead as NIU went on to win 48-27.
The junior from Morgan Park finished with eight catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns – the first 100-yard receiving day of his career and only the seventh 200-yard game in school history.
He’s hoping for more of that against Toledo (7-3, 5-1 MAC) tonight, another ESPN2-televised game for the No. 16 Huskies (10-0, 6-0).
After redshirting as a freshman, Brown has diligently worked his way into the go-to receiver role. Last season, he played behind Martel Moore and Perez Ashford and had 17 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
This season, he said, is his time. He leads Huskies receivers with 689 yards and nine touchdowns on 41 catches.
“When you redshirt, you wait patiently and you wait your turn,” Brown said.
NIU coach Rod Carey said Brown has slipped seamlessly into the role in part because of his work ethic.
“There wasn’t a choice,” Carey said. “He had to make a conscious decision that, OK, he’s going to step into that role and be that guy. That bleeds into your work habits.”
Rivalry week: NIU owns a three-game winning streak against Toledo, but the Rockets have won 29 of 40 meetings overall and 19 of 27 as MAC opponents.
“You’re dealing with two good football programs,” Carey said. “When you’ve got two good football programs, you’re going to play for something that matters.”
Switching sidelines: Toledo defensive coordinator Tom Matukewicz was the NIU linebackers coach from 2008-11 under former coaches Jerry Kill and Dave Doeren. He served as the interim coach for the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl, a 40-17 victory against Fresno State.
“Tom’s done a great job with improving fundamentals,” Toledo coach Matt Campbell said. He said Matukewicz has “brought a positive energy” to the Rockets.