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NIU falls to Utah, 35-17, as Utes pull away in the second half

The Huskies played well in the first half but struggled to get anything going in the final 30 minutes

Northern Illinois v Utah

Ross Bowers and the Northern Illinois Huskies offense looked sharp in the first 30 minutes against the 13th-ranked Utah Utes, gaining 232 yards and scoring 17 points. But, as the Huskies only managed 70 total yards in the second half, Utah was to pull away and claim a 35-17 victory.

The teams both punted on their opening drives before NIU put together a great 12-play, 88-yard drive that ended in a 9-yard Ross Bowers touchdown run, in which he flipped up and over a pile of defenders into the endzone.

Both offense took over in the second quarter as, in those 15 minutes, fans were treated to 31 points.

Utah would answer early in the second quarter on a 12-yard jet sweep run by Demari Simpkins that tied the game at 7. The, after forcing another NIU punt, the Utes would take the lead on a 7 play, 70-yard drive capped off by quarterback Tyler Huntley scampering 16-yards for the score.

Huskies responded just one minute later and tie the game at 14 apiece when Bowers tossed a perfect ball to Spencer Tears, who then broke a tackle and took it 75-yards for a touchdown.

The Utes, not to be outdone, then drove 75 yards in nine plays that ended with a 16-yard Zack Moss touchdown run. NIU was able to get more offense going, even gaining 37-yards on a 3rd-and-10 play, which allowed the Huskies to kick a 46-yard field goal right before halftime, bringing the score to 21-17.

Utah pushed the lead more on their first possession of the second half, as a Moss got his second TD of the game on a 5-yard carry, giving them an 11 point advantage.

The Huskies would struggle on their next three possessions and, early in the fourth quarter, Bowers attempted an ill-advised pass on third down that was intercepted by Julian Blackmon at the NIU 29-yard line.

On the very next play, Huntley threw a pass that was caught by Bryan Thompson over the middle when he was hit, in his chest, by Mykelti Williams which forced a fumbled that was recovered by NIU. However, the referees threw a flag for targeting on Williams which negated the turnover and gave Utah the ball back. The “penalty” was a botched call and even criticized by the Utah color commentator during the game.

Utah would score on their very next play, extending the lead to 35-17 where it would stay for the remainder of the game.

The final Huskie drive saw Marcus Childers make his return to the quarterback spot, where he went 1/2 passing for 6 yards and scrambled for 2 yards.


Total yards: 302 (235 passing, 67 rushing)
Bowers: 20/29, 229 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7 carries, -5 yards, 1 rushing TD
Jordan Nettles: 10 carries, 37 yards
Tre Harbison: 6 carries, 32 yards
Tears: 5 catches, 112 yards, TD

Total yards: 407 (214 passing, 193 rushing)
Huntley: 14/19, 214 yards, 1 TD; 3 carries, 38 yards, 1 rushing TD
Moss: 18 carries, 80 yards, 2 TDs
Jaylen Dixon: 4 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD

Next week, the Huskies continue their daunting non-conference schedule when they head to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the #25 Nebraska Cornhuskers. The game will kickoff at 7 p.m. (CST) and can be seen on FS1.