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NIU tops WMU, 24-21, on Lynch’s last minute TD to end Broncos bowl hopes

The Huskies scored the go-ahead TD with under a minute to go to shock the Broncos.

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The Northern Illinois Huskies scored the game-winning touchdown with under a minute remaining after quarterback Justin Lynch led the team on a fantastic drive.

Lynch, who backed up Nevan Cremascoli for most of the game, went under center with NIU trailing 21-17 and just 3:13 left in the game. On the first play of the drive, he took off on a designed run, got to the edge, and out-ran the Bronco defense for a 52-yard gain. The big play set him up for a 9-yard TD run four plays later, giving the Huskies a 24-21 lead with just 56 seconds remaining. On that game-winning drive NIU ran just five plays, four of those were runs by Lynch.

The Huskies (3-7, 2-4 MAC), who were also without their three starting halfbacks, Harrison Waylee, Antario Brown and Mason Blakemore, relied on freshman Jaiden Cradle to carry the load. Cardle struggled on the opening drive, losing four yards on two carries, but then turned into a beast. He finished the day with 136 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries.

Cremascoli, a walk-on true freshman, and the Huskies fourth string QB, played for most of the game, with Lynch only coming in on three plays before that final drive. Cremascoli completed eight of his 17 passes for 133 yards and a score but also had three interceptions that helped the Broncos stay in control for most of the game.

Western Michigan (3-7, 2-4 MAC) had their own freshman quarterback, Treyson Bourguet, who was able to hurt the Huskies with his arm and his legs. He threw the ball for 185 yards and a score on 15/30 passing and added 43 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries as well. However, he was sacked SIX times - including twice on Western’s final drive.

NIU started the scoring on their opening drive, when John Richardson hit a season-long 53-yard field goal to go up 3-0. On their next possession he had a chance to make it 6-0 but a 46-yard attempt was wide right.

The Broncos took the lead on their second drive of the game when Treyson Bourguet ran it in from 16 yards out to give WMU a 7-3 lead. The next six possessions ended with no scores but did include a pick and a missed field goal from the Broncos.

A short punt set the Huskies up in plus territory and Cremiscoli was able to find Cole Tucker for his only passing TD of the day, a 16-yard strike, a few plays later that gave NIU a 10-7 lead.

WMU would retake the lead right before the half after a seven-play, 63-yard drive ended with a 3-yard Sean Tyler run and the Broncos took a 14-10 lead into the break.

On the opening drive of the second half, it looked like the Broncos would extend their lead, after getting into scoring range on the very first play of the half - a 50 yard run by Tyler. However, the Huskie defense would force a turnover on the very next play, when James Ester sacked Bourguet, forcing a fumble, and Izayah Green May recovering the loose ball.

NIU would score six plays later when Cradle punched it in from a yard out, putting the Huskies up 17-14.

Western would punt on their next drive but their defense forced another turnover, when Andre Carter tipped a pass and hauled it in. Carter would be ejected from the game after he spiked the ball on the pick, getting his second unsportsmanlike penalty call of the game. After the turnover, Bourguet gave WMU the lead again when he found Anthony Sambucci for a 26-yard bomb.

The teams would then combine for four punts and two turnovers (a NIU interception that was quickly followed by a WMU fumble) over the next six drives. The Huskies were able to get a big sack on Bourguet and force a punt with just over three minutes to go in the game.

And that’s when Lynch came in and took over. The aforementioned five play drive chewed up just over two minutes and gave the Huskies lead with 56 seconds to go.

The Broncos had one last chance and were quickly aided by a roughing the passer flag and a quick 16-yard strike to Corey Crooms that set them up inside NIU territory with less than 40 seconds to go.

However, from there the Huskie defense would step up and get pressure on the Bronco QB, forcing a holding call, an incomplete pass, and a sack on third down. Then, on 4th and 27, with just 17 seconds left, NIU brought the house again and Jashon Prophete dropped Bourguet for the Huskies sixth sack of the game. NIU took over on downs and was able to run out the clock, getting their third win of the season.

Next week NIU will return home to take on the Akron Zips on Wednesday night while the Broncos will travel to instate rival CMU.