Northern Illinois quarterback, Rocky Lombardi, tiptoed into the endzone with 71 seconds remaining in the game to give the Huskies (4-4, 3-1 MAC) a 20-13 lead after the Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-4, 2-2 MAC) defense backed off and allowed him to score.
The Eagles had a chance after starting at their own 35-yard line with just over a minute to go but with no timeouts. EMU’s quarterback, Austin Smith, got his team to midfield with 30 seconds to go but the Huskies were able to get pressure on him and, while avoiding a sack, and spinning around, he tossed a ball over his shoulder right into the hands of NIU’s Devonte O’Malley to seal the win for the Huskies.
The teams traded opening possession touchdowns, with NIU striking first on a 2-yard TD run by Antario Brown that capped a 9-play, 75-yard drive. The Eagles countered with a 2-yard TD run of their own when Samson Evans powered his way into the endzone just a few minutes later.
From there, the game became a more defensive battle. After the opening drive TDs for each team, the next 14 possessions saw a combined nine punts, four field goals, and an interception. On the 15th possession, NIU was able to put together a 15-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in the Lombardi touchdown run.
The kickers had quite the day despite the windy conditions in DeKalb. Field goal kickers Kanon Woodill (NIU) and Jesus Gomez (EMU) were each a perfect 2/2 on field goal attempts and the punters combined for a whopping total of 439 yards off of punts (including longs of 79 for NIU and 68 for EMU!).
NIU outgained the Eagles, 289-257, and had 173 passing yards and 116 yards on the ground while Eastern tallied 151 yards passing and 106 yards rushing. A lot of laundry ended up on the field as the teams were flagged 17 total times; Northern committing ten infractions to EMU’s seven.
For the Huskies, Lombardi finished the day 21/33 for 173 yards and seven carries for -1 yards but had that game-winning TD run. Gavin Williams ran the ball seven times for 80 yards while Antario Brown (who left the game in the third quarter with an injury) had 26 yards on his ten carries. Trayvon Rudolph had 55 receiving yards on his seven catches and ran the ball four times for ten yards. O’Malley had a sack and a pick, while Jaden Dolphin led NIU with eight tackles and had two pass break ups.
For Eastern, Smith ended the game with 14/26 with 151 yards and two interceptions. Samson Evans had 68 yards and the Eagles’ only TD on his 19 carries. Hamze El-Zayat led all receivers with 74 yards on his six catches and Kempton Shine led all players with nine total tackles. Elijah Williams had himself a day as well, amassing six stops with 3.5 of them coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Next weekend the Eagles will head home, where they’ll take on MAC Michigan rival, Western Michigan next Saturday. The game will kick off at noon (EST) and can be seen on ESPN+.
The Huskies enter a bye week and will not play again for ten days. They’ll travel to Mt. Pleasant to take on Central Michigan a week from Tuesday, on October 31st. The game time and TV/streaming schedule has yet to be released.