The Northern Illinois Huskies (7-4, 6-1 MAC) were once again in a close, defensive battle, this time with the Miami RedHawks (5-6, 5-2 MAC). But, tonight, it was the RedHawk defense that made a play to win.
The Huskies, who outgained the RedHawks by more than 150 yards (369 to 201), were really hampered by turnovers, penalties, and dropped passes all game. NIU had two turnovers, nine penalties, and a slew of dropped passes by wide open receivers.
As per the usual for an NIU game, it was a low scoring first half. For the fourth time this season the Huskies were in a game that went into halftime with a score of 3-0, this time with Miami clinging onto the slim lead.
The teams punted on the first five drives of the game before Miami was able to embark on a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard field goal from Samuel Sloman.
On NIU’s first possession of the second half, the Huskies were saved by a holding call on 3rd and long which gave them new life...and they wouldn’t squander that opportunity. Marcus Childers hit Spencer Tears on a 37-yard pass then, two plays later, Marcus Jones would scamper 29 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
The RedHawks wouldn’t trail for long though. On their next possession they put together a nice drive that ended up stalling out at the NIU 21, leading to Sloman’s second field goal of the night, a 39-yard attempt that made it 7-6.
Then, just 11 seconds of game time later, on NIU’s second down play, Childers would throw an out route that was jumped by RedHawk DB Ja’don Rucker-Furlow, who returned the interception 28-yards for a touchdown and gave Miami a 13-7 lead.
From there, the teams would both stall offensively...they combined for 10 straight punts, SEVEN of which were a result of a 3-and-out.
Northern got the ball back with 5:25 to go at their own 8-yard line and was finally put together a few first downs. But, on 4th-and-2 from midfield, NIU tried a WR reverse pass which was incomplete and gave Miami the ball back with 2:55 remaining.
The Huskie defense held strong and forced another Miami punt, which bounced into the end zone, and only 18 seconds had ticked off the clock. But more offensive futility from the Huskies ended the drive quickly, after a 4th-and-6 pass sailed over everyone’s head and, from there, Miami was able to run out the clock.
Total Yards: 201 (107 passing, 94 rushing)
Gus Ragland: 15/24, 107 yards
Alonzo Smith: 18 carries, 40 yards
Kenny Young: 9 carries, 33 yards
Ryan McWood: 10 tackles, TFL
Rucker-Furlow: 4 tackles, 1 INT, TD
Total Yards: 369 (157 passing, 212 rushing)
Childers: 15/32, 157 yards, INT; 13 carries, 57 yards
Tre Harbison: 16 carries, 103 yards
Jones: 6 carries, 45 yards, 1 TD
Spencer Tears: 5 catches, 74 yards
Antonio Jones-Davis: 10 tackles, 2 TFL
Sutton Smith: 3 tackles, 2 QBH, TFL
Miami’s final game will be against the Ball State Cardinals next Tuesday. The RedHawks now have a chance to shock everyone and win the MAC East...but they’ll need some help. If Buffalo falls next week to Bowling Green and the RedHawks are able to beat Ball State, Miami will win the East and have a rematch with these Huskies in Detroit.
For the Huskies, their final game comes next Tuesday as well, when they head to Kalamazoo to play the Western Michigan Broncos. NIU has already locked in their spot in the MAC Championship after WMU lost to Ball State this week.