The Northern Illinois Huskies engaged in a hard fought, low scoring battle against the Utah Utes Saturday evening but a late pick-six propelled Utah to a 17-6 victory over the Huskies.
Much like the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, the first half was a low scoring affair, with NIU netting the only points of the half on a 49-yard field goal late in the first quarter. However, the Huskies were once again short an offense - gaining only 228 yards while giving up 354.
After both teams punted on their opening drives, Utah had a chance to take an early 3-0 lead but the Huskies were able to block their second kick of the season when Jack Heflin was able to get a hand on Matt Gay’s 43-yard try. On the next drive, NIU marched down to the Utah 31-yard line where Andrew Gantz hit a 49-yard attempt.
Both teams then traded turnovers on downs and punts before Utah set up for another field goal try from 43-yards out. Gay pushed this one wide right, keeping it 3-0 as halftime dawned.
NIU got the ball to start the second half and had a quick three-and-out. On the ensuing drive, the Utes hit pay dirt after a 41-yard catch eventually led to the first touchdown of the game, a 1-yard Zack Moss TD run, giving Utah a 7-3 lead.
From there, both defenses took control. Both teams punted on their next two possessions, which led to the Huskies having the ball at their own 39...but a quick fumble gave it right back to Utah. However, on second down, NIU’s Jordan Cole forced and recovered a fumble giving the Huskies the ball near midfield.
NIU couldn’t do much with the ball but a late hit penalty on a Marcus Childers scramble pushed NIU into field goal range where Gantz connected on his second try, cutting the lead to 7-6.
Utah was not ready to call it quits though and, on second down, Tyler Huntley threw a 48-yard pass to Britain Coven. With the Utes in field goal range at the 25-yard line, the Huskie defense settled down and forced yet another field goal try from Gay. Gay’s third try would not miss - giving Utah a 10-6 lead with 4:38 remaining.
After another Huskie three-and-oun, Utah got the ball back with 3:08 left at their own 15-yard line. NIU stopped the Utes on all three plays, using all their timeouts in the process.
On first down, with just over 2:30 to go, Childers threw a horrible pass that was picked off by Chase Hansen, who returned it 40 yards for Utah’s second TD of the game and bumped the lead up to 11 points, 17-6.
Childers, on the final drive, wasn’t able to do anything going and turned the ball over near midfield after a 4th-and-21 play went nowhere, giving Utah the ball back with :23 seconds and the 17-6 win.
Total yards: 354 (286 passing, 68 rushing)
Huntley: 21-31, 286 yards
Moss: 16 carries, 66 yards, TD
Covey: 8 catches, 129 yards
Total yards: 228 (111 passing, 117 rushing)
Childers: 18-33, 111 yards, 1 INT
Tre Harbison: 13 carries, 63 yards
Jauan Wesley: 8 catches, 73 yards
Sutton Smith: 8 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks
Next week NIU will open up conference play when they take on Central Michigan next Saturday (9/15) at 2:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.