It looked real bleak in DeKalb for a while. With just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Wyoming Cowboys intercepted a pass from NIU’s quarterback, Rocky Lombardi, and returned it for a touchdown, giving them a 42-16 lead over the Huskies.
But there was no quit in the young NIU team. The Huskies rallied off 27 unanswered points - including three touchdowns in a seven minute span - to take a 43-42 lead with just under five minutes to go. However, the Cowboys were able to strike late, and tack on a two-point conversion, with 1:35 left to sneak out of Huskie Stadium with a 50-43 victory.
NIU needs to find a way to be more consistent on both sides of the ball
NIU out-gained the Cowboys by more than 80 yards (477-395) and their 477 yards of total offense was the most the Huskies have put up since October 12th of 2019, when they hung 510 yards on the Ohio Bobcats.
The Huskies really struggled to get anything going in the first 40 minutes of the game, tossing a trio of interceptions, punting twice, and giving up to 307 yards and 42 points to the Cowboys.
But, all of a sudden, a fire was lit and they showed what they were capable of doing. Harrison Waylee took off for touchdown runs of 75-yards and 14-yards, Lombardi tossed a 40-yard TD pass to Treyvon Rudolph, and they put together a nice 10-play drive to take the lead late in the game. The defense forced a fumble, finally got pressure on the QB, got a sack, and held Wyoming to just eight yards on three possessions allowing for the comeback to begin.
If they can find a way to keep the offense moving more consistently and the defense can keep that pressure up, they are going to be a real tough team to beat the next few years. Especially in conference play.
The rushing duo of Waylee & Ratkovich is working
Waylee has continued to run the ball well, carrying it 26 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns this week to go along with his 144 yards and TD from last week. His 323 rushing yards is third best in the NCAA, just 15 yards shy of first place - Memphis’ Brandon Thomas.
Clint Ratkovich, the senior transfer from Western Illinois, has really made an impact over the first two weeks. The hybrid RB/FB caught the game winning touchdown against Georgia Tech and then, this week, he powered his way for 62 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries.
While the rushing attack has been stopped and slowed down for long stretches during the game (which has been frustrating to watch), both Waylee and Ratkovich seem to get stronger as the game goes on and find ways to pick up big chunks of yards when the Huskies need it most.
The Huskie linebackers are leading the charge
NIU’s defense has been led the linebackers.
Lance Deveaux leads the team and now has 21 tackles - including eight stops, two TFL, and a QB Hurry this week. He seems to be everywhere on the field and has made plays when needed most.
Nick Rattin really shined against Wyoming. He had 11 total tackles this week and is right behind Deveaux Jr. overall, with 16 stops on the season, but has also added a pass break up and a team-leading four QB Hurries (which is already more than NIU’s entire defense had all of last season!).
Finally, Daveren Rayner has amassed 13 tackles as well and has really rounded out this linebacking corp nicely.
The Huskies have a really tough test next week as they head to The Big House to take on the Michigan Wolverines, who are coming off a big win against another set of Huskies (the Washington Huskies). But, as we’ve seen from this group this season, NIU isn’t afraid of a challenge and they certainly won’t back down or quit.