When I looked up the stats for both teams to research the game preview, it looked like Eastern Michigan was going to walk all over Northern Illinois. Then you factor in that EMU came off a pretty impressive win over WMU and Northern Illinois came off a pretty devastating loss against Toledo, and it would be easy to think it was EMU’s game to lose.
However, that factor overlooks a couple of things. One, Northern Illinois (much like Eastern Michigan) was in pretty much every game they’ve played this season. Two, winless teams will play their hearts out to gain that first victory. Since this was the last game of the season, that’s ultimatley what we saw in a 41-33 victory for the Eagles.
The game would start the second half with Eastern Michigan leading 20-10. Northern Illinois started the half with the ball and started to put together a decent drive. Dennis Robinson would catch the Ross Boyers pass for what would have been a first down to continue the drive.
However, Eastern Michigan’s Kempton Shine forced a fumble and then Eastern Michigan’s Mark Lee would run the fumble for a 61-yard touchdown. That would make the game 27-10 and starting to get out of reach. Northern Illinois would respond with a 79-yard drive capped off by a 9 yard run by Erin Collins. Eastern was able to respond with their own 75-yard drive capped off by a 18-yard Darius Boone run to keep the game at 17 points. Northern Illinois would end the quarter with a 73-yard drive that was finished by a 18-yard pass from Ross Bowers to Messiah Travis.
EMU would maintain their 17-point lead with a 43-yard drive capped off by a Preston Hutchinson touchdown. After a bad snap, Eastern Michigan would find themselves within the shadow of the goal line. The next snap was bad and Eastern Michigan would give up a safety. Northern Illinois would score a touchdown on the next drive to make it an 8-point game but that was it and Eastern Michigan would end up escaping with the win.
Northern Illinois quarterback Ross Bowers would finish the game 22of-37 for 221 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. His counterpart, Preston Hutchinson was a shade better, going 21-of-29 for 242 yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing.) He also threw no interceptions.
Northern Illinois’ leading rusher was Harrison Waylee with 125 yards. Of note was quarterback Dustin Fletcher gaining 63 yards on the ground. The Eastern Michigan ground game was led by Samson Evans with 58 yards. The Huskies leading receiver was Tyrice Richie with 71 yards. The Eagles were led by Hassan Beydoun with 136 yards.
Eastern Michigan finishes the season at 2-4, on a two-game winning streak, while Northern Illinois finish winless for the first time since 1998.