The Northern Illinois Huskies have now dropped three straight games after winning their season opener against Boston College. The loss is their seventh consecutive home loss, as they have not won at Huskie Stadium since their win in week one last season.
NIU’s offense continues to be anemic but the Huskie defense has continued to look good...until they’re put in awkward positions due to those offensive struggles. The Huskies actually out-gained Tulsa 295-281 and the Golden Hurricane were held to just 6-15 on third down. Northern’s defense also forced three turnovers, a fumble and two interceptions, but it wasn’t enough as the Huskies turned the ball over three times themselves.
After a quiet first drive from both teams, Tulsa’s quarterback Cardell Williams, threw a pick when Huskie safety Nate Valcarcel jumped the route and stole the ball for NIU. The Huskies would drive down but be forced to attempt a short, 21-yard field goal which Jake Seibert would push wide and keep the score at 0-0.
The Golden Hurricane would drive down the field and get inside the 10-yard line but Devin Lafayette would punch out the ball and the Huskies would recover the fumble at their own six yard line. On the second play of the drive, quarterback Rocky Lombardi dropped back but fumbled the ball - untouched - in the endzone, resulting in a safety and the first points of the day. He would be benched in favor of Ethan Hampton after that play.
With a 2-0 lead, and the ball after the safety punt, Tulsa was able to capitalize on the mistake and push the lead to 9-0 when Anthony Watkins rushed it in from a yard out.
With Hampton coming in, the Huskies put together a massive 21-play, 11 minute drive that went 75 yards. NIU was 4-5 on third downs on the drive and Hampton capped it off with a nice touchdown pass to Trayvon Rudolph on 4th and 2.
Tulsa would punt on their next three possessions and the Huskies offense would continue to struggle, with Hampton tossing a pick right before the half and then punting on back-to-back drives to start the third quarter.
However, NIU’s defense would come up with their third turnover of the game when Muhammed Jammeh intercepted Williams pass and returned it down to the Tulsa 33-yard line. Justin Lynch would capitalize for NIU just two plays later on a 27-yard read option run that gave NIU their first lead of the game, 14-9.
Tulsa would get a field goal two possessions later, after NIU went for it on 4th and 1 at their own 34 and was stuffed, cutting the Huskie lead down to just two, 14-12. The Huskies quickly had to punt again and Tulsa would reclaim the lead, 19-14, when Tahj Gary ran it in from 17-yards out.
On the ensuing kickoff, Rudolph had the ball stripped and the Golden Hurricanes recovered, setting them up to kick another field goal and push their lead up to eight - 22-14 - with under five minutes to go.
After each team had to punt after a three-and-out, the Huskies got the ball back with under two minutes left and a chance to tie. Hampton nickled-and-dimed the Huskies down to the Tulsa 30 yard line with 32 seconds to go. But he was unable to complete the comeback when he was pressured and threw a pick, NIU’s third turnover of the game, sealing the win for Tulsa.
Justin Lynch led the team with 84 yards on eight carries, while Antario Brown had 54 on 18 rushes. Hampton finished the game 13/23 with 97 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Lombardi was 4/6 with 31 yards. Raishein Thomas had a day on defense, finishing with 11 tackles and .5 sacks.
For Tulsa, Williams finished just 8/20 with 102 yards and two interceptions. Anthony Watkins led the team with 91 rushing yards on 23 carries while Gary had 51 yards on his eight runs.
Northern Illinois will head to Ohio next week to take on their rivals, the Toledo Rocket. The game will kick off at 3:30 EST (2:30 CST) and can be seen on ESPNU