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September 11, 2011As the media swarmed wide receiver D.J. Beshears after game, the junior wide receiver couldn't stop smiling. He had just caught the game winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to give Kansas the 45-42 win.
"I have been in a lot of big games but that was by far the biggest one," Beshears said. "There wasn't any pressure I just felt that we had to score and we did that."
Kansas entered that drive down 42-38. Several plays earlier on a crucial 4th and 2 from Northern Illinois' 7 yard line, running back James Sims grinded out the two yards to get the game saving first down.
"We work on these situations all the time in practice everyday because stuff like this will happen when the game is on the line," Sims said. "We practice this so we can feel confident in each other that we can execute it."
Three plays later Kansas found itself on NIU's 6-yard-line in a 4th and goal situation. On the fourth down play, Kale Pick and Chris Omigie were Webb's first two options but were covered. That's when Jordan Webb decided to throw a quick strike to Beshears' way.
After the game, offensive coordinator Chuck Long was impressed in his quarterback's growth in his second year.
"He wasn't making those reads last year, but now he is progressing to the third guy and we practiced that play over and over in practice and it came through when we needed it the most," Long said. "The young man is growing and it's happening right in front of your eyes."
The defense once against struggled, especially against Northern Illinois' passing game, giving up 315 yards.
"Last week we had correctable mistakes," Greg Brown said. "This week we were closer to the ball; we just didn't make plays. We have to fight through arms, play the ball better and play the ball at its highest point."
Overall for most of the game, the ground attack was a strength for the team with James Sims leading the way with 117 yards on 26 carries. Although going into the game, the running backs weren't sure how much emphasis was going to be put on the ground game.
"We thought it was going to go to the air game but after a little early success in the run that changed the gameplan a little bit," Darrian Miller said. "We kept the passing and that came through in the third down but we really didn't think we were going to run on them as much as we did."
Going into the game, Kansas was widely considered the underdogs against the MAC favorite Northern Illinois. Players said they used that as motivation.
"It's real big," linebacker Steven Johnson said. "That Sports Illustrated thing about us only winning one game is out the window. Next week I'm looking forward to getting another one."