The Northern Illinois Huskies looked like a different team today as they bulldozed the Akron Zips by a final score of 55-14. After struggling on offense for the past month or so, the Huskies exploded against the Zips.
It was a stellar offensive performance for the Huskies (2-4, 1-1 MAC), who wracked up 571 yards of offense on just 52 plays - or nearly 11 yards per snap. NIU finished the game with 380 rushing yards and 191 passing yards while holding the Akron Zips (1-5, 0-2 MAC) to just 253 yards on their 75 plays.
Northern had six rushing touchdowns and tallied five scores of 40+ yards, starting with their opening possession, when Rocky Lombardi found Kacper Rutkiewicz for an easy 64-yard touchdown pass. It would be Rutkiewicz’s only catch of the game as he suffered a knee injury later in the first quarter that put him in crutches.
From there, Antario Brown and the run game took over for NIU. Brown only carried the ball thirteen times but made the most of those touches. Brown had rushing touchdowns of 66-, 58-, 46-, and 50-yards, finished the day with 280 yards and four touchdowns, and averaged an amazing 21.5 yards per carry. Gavin Williams also scored twice on his ten carries and finished the day with 37 yards.
The Huskies scored touchdowns on eight of their first ten possessions had the game well under control early on, leading 35-7 at the half and 48-7 midway through the third quarter.
Akron, with out starting quarterback DJ Irons, elected to skip backup QB Jeff Undercuffler Jr. and, instead, opted for the third string quarterback, the dual-threat Tahj Bullock.
Bullock struggled early on, ending the first half with just 22 passing yards and 31 rushing yards. He was held in check all game, was sacked four times, and finished the day 19/34 with 146 yards, a touchdown, and an interception through the air and added 41 yards on 21 carries on the ground.
Akron halfback Lorenzo Lingard was also stifled all day, as their leading rusher finished with just 49 yards on 12 carries.
NIU opened the second half with three quick touchdowns before electing to put in the backups for the final 18 minutes of play. Lombardi finished the day 10/15 with 191 yards and a pair of scores. Rutkiewicz led all receivers with that one long 64-yard TD catch, but Trayvon Rudolph had his best game of the season, catching three passes for 58 yards.
Next week the Huskies head back home for their third straight match up with an Ohio school, as they welcome the Ohio Bobcats to Huskie Stadium. The game can be see on ESPNU, with a scheduled kickoff time of 4 p.m. EST.
The Zips travel up to Mt. Pleasant to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas next Saturday. You can watch the game, which will kick off at 3:30 p.m. EST, on ESPN+