The Northern Illinois Huskies got out to a quick 14 point advantage over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first quarter after Tanner Lee threw two picks sixes! But the Huskies had to search for offense the rest of the way as they ended up locked in a tight contest with the Huskers.
On the first drive the Cornhuskers moved the ball down the field well, getting it to the red zone. But, on second and three from the 10 yard line, Shawun Lurry read a screen pass perfectly, stepped in front, picked it off and ran it back 87-yards for a touchdown.
After a couple three and out for both teams NIU punted the ball and pinned Nebraska down at their six-yard line. After gaining a first down near the 20, a few penalties set the Huskers back. On third and nine, Lee was hit as he threw the ball and Jawuan Johnson snagged it out of the air and returned it for the second pick-six of the game, this time from 25-yards out.
The defenses shined for both sides throughout the game and offense was very limited. NIU found a way to get inside the Huskers 25-yard line midway through the second quarter but Hagan’s field goal attempt sailed wide right and kept the score at 14-0.
Nebraska came close to getting on the board as the first half was coming to an end but the Huskies blocked a field goal attempt as time expired. It was the first time Nebraska had been shut out at home since 2007.
The second half was more of the same as each team had three-and-outs on their first two possessions.
But Nebraska start a comeback. After they punted for the second straight time, a muffed return set up the Cornhuskers with great field position at the NIU 2-yard line. On second down Lee would keep it and run it in from four yards out, cutting the lead in half, 14-7.
Nebraska would stifle the Huskie offense again and, after starting at their own 10-yard line, the Cornhuskers marched down the field. NIU’s defense would stiffen up and force a 39-yard field goal that made it 14-10 NIU.
After another three-and-out for the Huskies, Nebraska didn’t waste any time and marched 63 yard in 6 plays to take a 17-14 lead, after Lee reached the ball out from the 1-yard line for his second rushing TD of the game.
The Huskie offense had one great drive all game and it came at the right time. It was a 6-play, 75-yard drive that accounted for just under 30% of their total offense for the day. On first down Daniel Santacaterina launched a 47-yard bomb to Christian Blake getting NIU to the Nebraska 28-yard line. After another great catch by Blake, NIU was set up at the Huskers 2-yard line, where Jordan Huff would pound it in and give the lead back to NIU, 21-17.
Nebraska started driving again, moving it inside the Huskies’ 40-yard line but, on fourth and seven from the NIU 33, Lee’s pass was knocked incomplete giving NIU the ball back with 5:31 to go.
NIU moved the ball well but stalled out after gaining 31 yards. The Huskers had one last chance with three and half minutes to go. But, on forth and 14, Lee would throw his third pick. Josh Corcoran sat in the middle of the field and had a great leaping interception with just 1:36 to go that would seal the game for NIU.
All in all, NIU’s defense was the story. Yes, they gave up 384 yards (299 passing and 85 rushing) but also forced three turnovers and scored the bulk of NIU’s points.
Santacaterina finished 15/22 for 128 yards. Huff, the lone bright spot on offense, ran it 16 times for 145 yards and the lone offensive TD. Blake led NIU receivers with 5 grabs for 77 yards.
For Nebraska, Lee ended the game 25/47 with 299 yards, three picks but did run for both Husker TDs. Running back Mikale Wilbon ran it 24 times for 90 yards. And wide outs De'Mornay Pierson-El and Stanley Morgan Jr. had good games, with 8 grabs for 101 yards and 6 catches for 94 yards respectively.
NIU will get to celebrate the victory for a little while as they have a bye-week next week but will head to the beaches of San Diego to battle San Diego State on Saturday, September 30th.