The Northern Illinois Huskies (4-3, 4-0 MAC) erased a 12-point fourth quarter deficit and came back to defeat the Ohio Bobcats (3-3, 1-1 MAC) by a score of 24-21.
With the win, NIU stays ahead of WMU (who is 3-0 in the MAC) and gained a game on Toledo, who lost to Eastern Michigan today. Ohio fell to 1-1 in conference and now trails Buffalo, the lone unbeaten MAC East team, by a game.
The Bobcats probably had flashbacks to the Jordan Lynch era as Marcus Childers picked today of all days to break out his best rushing performance of the year. The Huskie quarterback ended the game with 169 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (no other Huskie player had more than eight rushing attempts).
A low scoring affair turned into a late shootout, as in the first half the teams combined for just 16 total points. NIU struck first after a few Marcus Childers runs and some short passes helped the Huskies drive nearly 80-yards and ended with a 36-yard field goal.
After a punts from each team, Ohio would take their first lead of the game after A.J. Ouellette ran it in from 2-yards out...it certainly took the Bobcats long enough to punch it in though, as that run was the seven play from inside the NIU 5-yard line, after TWO consecutive penalties on 3rd-and-goal gave the Bobcats a new set of downs.
The Huskies wouldn’t trail for long though. A 74-yard drive that only took 1:57 off the clock was capped by a 23-yard jet sweep touchdown by D.J. Brown. The Huskies would botch the extra point though, giving them a 9-7 lead that they would carry into halftime.
Early in the second half, not much happened...the first seven drives resulted in no points, and included five punts and a pair of Ohio turnovers (an Ouellette fumble and an interception).
The Bobcats, however, would start to find a rhythm as they scored two TDs on LONG drives - a 4-play, 85-yard drive (56-yard TD pass from Nathan Rourke to Isiah Cox) and an 11-play, 90-yard one (11-yard TD pass from Rourke to Connor Brown) - which pushed Ohio ahead 21-9. Both drives were once again aided by THREE NIU penalties on third down.
Once again, the Huskies would claw their way back. First on a 12-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a Childers TD run, then NIU forced, and recovered, another fumble.
NIU wouldn’t miss their chance and, after just six-plays (including a pass interference call in the end zone), would strike pay dirt on a 2-yard Marcus Jones run. NIU would go for two and, on a screen pass to an offensive lineman, would convert it and give them a 24-21 lead...a lead they wouldn’t relinquish again.
Ohio then went three-and-out and, instead of going for it a 4th-and-15, they punted the ball back to NIU with 4:51 to go. The Huskies, after some crucial scrambles from Childers (including a 32-yard run), were able to bleed the clock dry and secure the homecoming victory.
Total yards: 321 (275 passing, 46 rushing)
Turnovers: 3 (two fumbles, one INT)
Penalties: 6 for 59 yards
Rourke: 15/23, 275 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Maleek Irons: 11 carries, 30 yards
Ouellette: 11 carries, 16 yards, TD
Cox: 3 receptions, 147 yards, TD
Papi White: 6 receptions, 59 yards
Total yards: 400 (145 passing, 255 rushing)
Penalties: 12 for 109 yards
Childers: 17/33, 145 yards; 23 carries, 169 yards, rushing TD
Jones: 8 carries, 33 yards, TD
D.J. Brown: 2 carries, 30 yards, rushing TD; 4 receptions, 28 yards
Jauan Wesley: 6 receptions, 61 yards
Sutton Smith: 5 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 FR, 1 FF
Next week Ohio will head back home to face Bowling Green while the Huskies get a bye-week. NIU is back in action on October 27th, when they head out west to take on the BYU Cougars.