The Northern Illinois Huskies and Iowa Hawkeyes met for the tenth time Saturday afternoon and, for the first 30 minutes, looked really evenly matched. But a strong second half showing from Iowa and ABSOLUTELY NO OFFENSE from Huskies propelled the Hawkeyes to a blowout victory.
It was a tale of two halves for NIU as, in the first half, they moved the ball relatively well, gaining 136 yards and limiting Iowa to just 3 points.
Then, for most of the second half, NIU managed no offense...actually, they managed LESS THAN NOTHING...they had -1 yards of offense and gave up 30 points in the first 23 minutes of the second half. A late 75-yard TD drive meant NIU avoided being shutout (they haven’t been shutout since a 16-0 loss to Navy on November 25, 2008) but they still looked awful in the process.
NIU seemed to be in great shape early as they forced a three-and-out and then blocked the opening Hawkeye punt, giving them the ball inside the 25-yard line. However, the Huskies would go three-and-out as well and attempt a field goal. Former Cincinnati kicker, Andrew Gantz, pushed the 33-yard attempt wide left for NIU and missed a golden opportunity to put the Huskies in front.
From there, neither side did a whole lot offensively; both teams then punted on their next possessions. On Iowa’s third offensive drive, the Hawkeyes began to drive before Albert Smalls intercepted Nate Stanley’s pass at the NIU 7-yard line.
After NIU stalled out around midfield and couldn’t convert on a 4th-and-2 at Iowa’s 39-yard line, Iowa was able to drive 40 yards and kick a field goal, giving them a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.
A few possessions later, Marcus Childers had NIU driving. However, inside the 10-yard line on first and goal, Childers tried to make a play but threw an interception and killed the Huskies drive at the 3-yard line.
After a quick 3-and-out, NIU got the ball back with under 30 seconds left in the half. They were able to get to the Iowa 32-yard line, where Gantz would attempt his second field goal...this time a 49-yard attempt. And, while he had the distance, this time he pushed it right, keeping the score 3-0 as the teams head to the half.
When the second half started, NIU forgot to bring their offense back...and due to the lack of rest, the defense began to fail.
The Huskies didn’t manage a first down on any of their first four drives of the second half, with no drive lasting more than five plays...and that five play drive ended when Childers fumbled the ball after getting sacked.
Iowa, on the other hand, had no issues with the tiring NIU defense. After a punt on their first drive, they scored a touchdown on their next three possessions - a 4th-and-goal play action pass to Noah Fant, a 2-yard Ivory Kelly-Martin TD run, and a 6-yard Toren Young run that extended the lead to 24-0 early in the fourth quarter.
NIU was finally able to force a punt with less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter...but the punt was a beauty and was stopped at the NIU 1-yard line. With 99-yards to go, Childers and the Huskies could barely get the ball out of the end zone. On both first and second down, the Huskies tried to run and were stopped in the backfield...and on second down, Jordan Nettles couldn’t reach the ball out of the end zone in time, resulting in a safety.
On the ensuing punt, a person foul gave the Hawkeyes the ball at the NIU 35. Three plays later, Peyton Mansell rushed it in from a yard out to give Iowa a 33-0 lead with 6:52 to go. The Huskies were outscored 30-0 in the first 23 minutes of the second half.
NIU was able to move the ball on their next possession (FINALLY!!!!!!!!!) but it was far too little, too late. Childers was able to find Jauan Wesley in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard TD score with just 2:12 remaining after Jordan Nettles ran well and a facemask penalty moved NIU inside the red zone.
From there the Hawkeys just ran out the clock, giving them a 33-7 victory over the Huskies.
The Huskies usually very solid offensive line looked very, very weak today, allowing five sacks, three QB Hurries, and eight tackles for loss. Although, every aspect of the Huskies offense looked terrible today...especially in that second half.
Childers: 14-25, 105 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Nettles: 13 carries, 74 yards
Tre Harbison: 6 carries, 41 yards
Jauan Wesley: 4 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD
Sutton Smith: 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack
Total yards: 211 (110 passing, 101 rushing)
3rd Downs: 3-12
Stanley: 11-23, 108 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Young: 8 carries, 84 yards, 1 TD
Kelly-Martin: 16 carries, 62 yards, 1 TD
T.J. Hockenson: 4 catches, 64 yards
Total yards: 352 (143 passing, 209 rushing)
3rd Downs: 8-16
The Huskies will look to rebound next weekend as they welcome the first ever PAC-12 team to Huskie Stadium, when they play the Utah Utes next Saturday (9/8) at 6:30 p.m.