In a game dominated by defense, the Northern Illinois Huskies (5-3. 4-0 MAC) only forced one turnover all game but it was a huge one.
Mykelti Williams intercepted Zach Wilson’s pass with 1:47 remaining to seal the victory for NIU. The BYU Cougars (4-4) had a chance to win the game, getting the ball back with 1:58 left but, on first down, Wilson was pressured and tried to throw the ball over the middle, where Williams jumped the route and gave the Huskies the ball back at the 48-yard line, where they’d run out the clock.
The first half was much of the same from NIU: no offense with a solid defense. Both teams gained minimal yardage and found very few scoring opportunities...it’s something we’ve seen almost every week from the Huskies in the first half.
BYU, however, was able to strike first blood on their second drive. They moved the ball 72 yards on 13 plays but had to settle for a 35-yard field goal instead, as the NIU defense stiffened in the red zone.
Then, after six futile drives (five punts and a turnover on downs), in their usual fashion, the Huskies had a chance to tie the game late in the second quarter. But, instead, a 41-yard field goal attempt from Andrew Gantz slammed into the goal post and left NIU scoreless and trailing 3-0 after two quarters.
Both teams could move the ball in to opposing territory but neither could find their way into the endzone and especially had problems on third downs - BYU was 1-8 while NIU didn’t do much better, going 1-6 on third downs in the first 30 minutes.
NIU would get the ball to start the second half and it wouldn’t take them long to score the games only touchdown. A 10-play, 65 yard drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run by Marcus Childers, gave the Huskies a 7-3 lead with 11:19 to go in the third. NIU was bailed out on 3rd-and-2 when a defensive holding call on BYU gave the Huskies a first down at the 1-yard line which set up the Childers scoring play.
BYU would stall on their first drive and kick a beautiful punt that completely turned the field around, as NIU would start at the one. On third down, a wide open Spencer Tears would drop a pass that would have given NIU new life but, instead they had to punt...which led to a Cougar field goal, slicing the Huskie lead to just 1 point, 7-6.
After three straight drives resulting in punts, the Cougars were able to drive 45-yards and got inside the Huskie 35-yard line where they attempted a 52-yard field goal with 9:30 to go. NIU fans held their breath but were able to let out a collective sigh of relief when the BYU kick sailed right and the score remained 7-6.
It was then the Huskies turn to pin BYU inside the 1-yard line. After going 3-and-out, Matt Ference kicked a beautiful 53-yard punt that bounced out of bounds at the half-yard line.
NIU would force a punt with just over three minutes to go but were unable to do anything with it, or waste as much time. They had to punt with just under two minutes remaining...but that’s where Mykelti Williams took over and sealed it for NIU with the interception.
Total yards: 204 (115 passing, 89 rushing)
Childers: 10-21, 115 yards; 13 rushes, 19 yards, 1 TD
Tre Harbiso: 11 carries, 54 yards
Jauan Wesley: 4 catches, 70 yards
Spencer Tears: 3 catches, 34 yards
Antonio Jones-Davis: 7 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
Sutton Smith: 1 tackle
Total yards: 301 (208 passing, 93 rushing)
Wilson: 18-30, 208 yards, 1 INT
Matt Hadley: 9 carries, 38 yards
Squally Canada: 10 carries, 32 yards
Matt Bushman: 3 catches, 63 yards
Talon Shumway: 3 catches, 52 yards
The Huskies, who have now won four straight games and five of their last six, wont have much time to celebrate as they have a short week ahead. They’ll head to Ohio this Thrusday to take on the Akron Zips.
Between celebrating the win and the short week with them not being very rested...the game against Akron is the definition of a trap game for NIU, who will look to stay perfect in the MAC.