The Northern Illinois Huskies and Central Michigan Chippewas both entered Saturday’s game with struggling offenses and an 0-2 record but it was a Huskie interception with :16 seconds left in the fourth quarter that led to a 24-16 NIU win, snapping a four game losing streak to CMU.
NIU came in scoring just one touchdown in the first two games but had some success against CMU’s defense, finding pay dirt three times this afternoon. And, for the Chips, a switch at quarterback energized the offense, leading to a couple second half TDs but it was too little too late against the stout Huskie defense.
Both offense still looked bad through the first quarter, as the first SEVEN drives of the game resulted in zero points and just 54 combined yards.
CMU had some early opporntunites to get some points against NIU when the Huskies long snapper struggled to get the ball to the punter twice, setting up the CMU offense once at the NIU 10-yard line and once inside the 30-yard line. However, the defense held strong and gave up just three points. A third red zone trip for CMU resulted in no points as the Huskies forced, and recovered, a Kumehnnu Gwilly fumble.
The Chippewas broke through first though with a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter. But a few possessions later Marcus Childers would hit Spenser Tears for a 14-yard TD strike that was set up by a huge 37-yard completion to D.J. Brown.
The Huskies continued their success blocking kicks as Sutton Smith exploded in the backfield late in the second quarter to block the Chips punt attempt, which eventually led to a Dennis Robinson 7-yard touchdown catch with just over a minute in the half, exending the lead to 14-3
In the second half, it looked to be more of the same as the first three possessions ended in punts before a 48-yard scramble by Tre Harbison would lead to NIU’s third touchdown, a 2-yard pass to Brown.
At that point, down 21-3, the Chips pulled QB Tony Poljan for Tommy Lazzaro. Lazzaro made an imediate impact with his legs and his arm, driving CMU down the field and scoring on a QB scramble late in the third quarter.
The Chips would stop the Huskies and score on their next possession as well, pulling it to a 16-21 game. On the two-point attempt, NIU was able to intercept Lazzaro’s pass keeping it a 5-point NIU lead.
The Huskies countered with a field goal of their own midway through the fourth quarter, giving them an 8-point cushion.
CMU had one final chance with three minutes to go and they were determined to make it count. Driving 15-plays and 66 yards, the Chips had the ball inside the Huskie 15-yard line. But, with just 16 seconds left, Lazzaro’s pass was deflected and then intercepted by Vinny Labus, handing NIU the win.
Total yards: 322 (158 passing, 164 rushing)
Poljan: 5-11, 30 yards
Lazzaro: 13-22, 128 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 12 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD
Jonathan Ward: 16 carries, 74 yards
Gwilly: 10 carries, 28 yards
Julian Hicks: 7 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD
Malik Fountain: 18 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack
Total yards: 284 (180 rushing, 104 passing)
Childers: 11-18, 109 yards, 3 TD; 8 carries, 28 yards
Harbison: 13 carries, 124 yards
Marcus Jones: 15 carries, 40 yards
Brown: 4 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD
Ben LeRoy: 8 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks
Smith: 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 blocked punt, 2 QB Hurries
Up next, CMU will head home to take on the Maine Black Bears next Saturday while the Huskies continue their nightmare non-conference schedule and head down to Tallahassee to take on a struggling Florida State Seminoles team.