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NIU survives late comeback, beats Boston College 27-24 in overtime

The Huskies snagged their second ACC win in a row as they defeated the Boston College Eagles in overtime Saturday afternoon

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back Rocky Lombardi! After missing most of last season with an injury, the senior quarterback sealed the victory for the Huskies when he powered his way into the endzone from a yard out in overtime, giving the Northern Illinois Huskies the 27-24 win over the Boston College Eagles, out of the ACC.

It’s the third straight year the Huskies have opened up the season with a win, after beating Eastern Illinois last season and fellow ACC member Georgia Tech back in 2021. It also marks the first time the Huskies have beaten the Eagles, after falling in their first three attempts. The “boneyard win”, as NIU calls their victories over P5 teams, is their fourth all-time over the ACC and brings their overall record up to 4-11 against the conference.

The biggest improvement this season was NIU’s defense on third down. After a terrible year last season that saw opponents convert on nearly half their 3rd down attempts, the Huskies held Boston College to just 5-16 on third downs today, while converting 10 of their 18 third down attempts. They also won the penalty battle, committing just four infractions to BC’s ten fouls, and controlled the time of possession, holding on to the ball for nearly 37 minutes.

Both teams offenses were quiet in the first half, with both teams punting on the first seven drives of the game.

However, a short punt gave the Huskies the ball at their own 40-yard line late in the second quarter and NIU would capitalize first. Lombardi found Christion Carter for 32 yards on a third and short that gave NIU the ball in the redzone for the first time. After a pair of runs, Lombardi would find receiver Kacper Rutkiewicz for nine more yards and it was first and goal NIU. From the seven yard line, NIU went to the wildcat formation, with Justin Lynch at QB and Lombardi out wide. Lynch took the snap, looked to running back Antario Brown on a flat, and he would take it in for the first score of the game with just 2:32 left in the first half.

The Huskies would start the second half with the football and wasted no time extending their lead. They put together a nine play, 75 yard drive that was capped off with Brown’s second touchdown of the game, a two yard sweep.

After it looked like the Huskies could go up three scores, getting the ball back quickly, Lombardi fumbled the football while evading a rusher and Boston College recovered, giving the Eagles great field position. They would capitalize when quarterback Thomas Castellanos found Lewis Bond in the endzone to cut the lead to 14-7.

The Huskies would extend the lead in the fourth quarter when fullback Brock Lampe powered his way in from a yard out giving NIU a 21-7 lead with 9:36 remaining in the game. However, the Eagles were not done and quickly countered with a ten play, 59 yard drive ended by a two yard Castellanos run.

After a quick punt from NIU, Boston College got the ball back with less than three and a half minutes remaining. And it didn’t take long for them to tie the game up. BC went 83 yards in just six plays, scoring on a 30-yard TD pass from Castellanos to Jaden Williams with 1:44 remaining.

The teams traded quick punts and decided to go into overtime, where NIU won the toss and elected to defend first. The Huskie defense held the Eagles to a field goal attempt, which was good, and gave NIU the opportunity to win with a touchdown. And Northern would do just that. Lampe gained 16 yards on a pass from Lombardi, then Gavin Williams ran it down to the one yard line to set up the final play of the game. Lombardi quickly took the snap and pushed his way into the endzone for the Huskies.

Northern Illinois finished the game with 338 yards to Boston College’s 314 yards with both teams running a very balanced attack. NIU ran for 166 yards and threw for 172, while the Eagles rushed for 146 and passed for 168.

Lombardi finished the game 13/29 with 165 yards. Williams and Brown each had a solid day, with Williams carrying the ball 15 times for 61 yards and Brown getting 16 carries and 53 yards. Rutkiewicz and Carter each had 46 receiving yards, while Carter snagged 2 passes to Rutkiewicz’s five receptions. Treyvon Rudolph was pretty quiet today in his return. He had just two catches for 14 yards and three rushes for five yards.

Castellanos ended the day 13/28 for 132 yards and two TDs and a pick. He was also their leading rusher, scampering for 67 yards and another score on his nine carries. Pat Garwo III had ten carries for 40 yards. Bond had four grabs for 40 yards while Ryan O’Keefe had five catches for 38 yards and Williams finished with 35 yards on his two grabs.

Next week NIU heads home to take on in-state rival Southern Illinois. The Salukis and Huskies will kickoff at 3:30 pm (2:30 CST) and can be seen on ESPN+