The Northern Illinois Huskies came up short once again, this time falling 23-28 to in-state FCS team Western Illinois.
Once again penalties were a huge problem for NIU who, once again, trailed early. NIU gave up two touchdowns in the first quarter before finding a defensive rhythm in the second quarter (and was bailed out by a missed field goal and a mismanaged clock to end the half).
Offensively, NIU struggled in the first 30 minutes as well…moving the ball well on just one drive – a 10 play 75 yard drive that culminated in a 2-yd td pass to Wimann.
In the second half, Western was able to score twice more in the opening eight minutes extending their lead to 28-7.
But the Huskies wouldn’t quit as Anthony Maddie came in to relieve Ryan Graham. Maddie would move the ball and provided a little bit of a spark for the stagnant NIU offense.
The Huskies were able to get down the field but, on a fourth and goal from the 10, Carey elected to kick a field goal, making it 28-10…as if he had already conceded the game to WIU.
But, after a three and out, the Huskies found a way to move the ball quickly, scoring in just two plays: a 27 yard pass to Golladay and a 23 yd rush by Huff made it 28-17 with over 11:40 left. On the next possession the defense held again on three plays, giving NIU the ball back on their own 40 yd line with 9:31 left.
Maddie was able to extended the drive on a 3rd and 7 with his legs before finding Golladay on a play action pass who tip-toed in for a 39-yd TD. The two-point conversion was no good, however, leaving the score 23-28 with 8:15 left.
The Huskie defense held again, and gave the offense the ball back at their 15-yard line with just under five minutes remaining.
Golladay started the drive with his first rush of the game, a 31-yard carry. But on the second play NIU once again hurt themselves with a holding call, bringing up 1st and 20 from the 35.
Huff, though, would break through for a huge gain – bringing NIU inside the Western 30-yard line. But three short gains later brought up fourth and two with 2:54 left.
Maddie’s inside rush went for two yards but the measurement came up half a yard short, giving WIU the ball back with 2:50.
But the NIU defense would not back down…and only used up 27 seconds. McShane got two yards on first down. Then, on second down, an incomplete pass helped NIU preserve some clock and brought up a huge Third and 7. An inside handoff was shut down by the Huskies, who took their final timeout and stopped the clock with 2:33 left.
After the punt, NIU got the ball at their own 39-yard line…61 yards away from their first victory of the season.
From there the Huskies offense benefitted from a late hit penalty on second down which moved them into WIU territory. On a QB keeper, Maddie got the Huskies inside the 30. He then found Blake for a quick strike, down to the WIU 16-yard line.
With 1:44 left Maddie rushed it down to the 10-yard line. On second down he had to escape pressure and rushed for just a yard, which brought up a third and three. After an over thrown pass, and on fourth and three, the Huskies went with a semi-jump pass to the tight end. But solid coverage and a decent blitz forced an overthrown pass into triple coverage.
Maddie finished the game 11-17 for 142 yards and a TD. Graham was 14-21 with 109 yards with a TD and a pick.
Huff had himself a game, rushing for 130 yards on nine carries with a touchdown. Golladay had five grabs for 113 yards and added 39 yards on the ground on two carries.
NIU finished the game with 132 penalty yards on 10 infractions and only held the ball for 26:34 (WIU had over 48 minutes of possession).
For Western Illinois, WR Joey Borsellino led the team with nine catches, 148 yards. Steve McShane rushed for 80 yards on 21 carries and QB Sean McGuire was solid; throwing for 315 yards and a score on 21 of 37 passing.
This could be the end of the Rod Carey-era at NIU as most Huskie fans have already voiced their displeasure with the way the team has been run over the past 30 games...and, as the Huskies have seen their offense slowly get worse and worse, it will take a lot to convince the NIU faithful to keep Carey.
The Huskies start the season 0-4 for the first time in almost 20 years and will open up their MAC schedule next week against Ball State.