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Nicholson, who missed the first two games of the season to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, left the game with a shoulder injury after completing 10 of 15 for 79 yards. DeMarcus Grady took over and went 4-for-10 for 39 yards and was the top rusher with 47 yards.
"Coach is always telling about being ready," said Grady who played in Nicholson's earlier absences.
Lincoln also kicked a 34-yard field goal for Tennessee, and Salerno had a 24-yarder.
The Vols kept themselves from gaining ground in the first half, committing six penalties for a loss of 45 yards. Several of Stephens' passes were dropped by receivers.
It was the Huskies who struggled with penalties in the second half, committing seven for 40 yards.
"Our kids played as hard as you could ask anybody to play," Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill said. "They are bigger, faster and stronger, no question. They are a tremendous, tremendous defensive team."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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