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2021 MAC Football Week 4 Game Recap: NIU 41, Maine 14

The Huskies pull away in the second half and finish non-conference play with a 2-2 record.

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Georgia Tech Jenn Finch-USA TODAY Sports

The Northern Illinois Huskies pulled away from the Maine Black Bears (1-3) in the second half, winning 41-14 on Saturday afternoon after scoring the final 27 points of the game.

After a close first half that saw Maine tie the game at 14 with 10 minutes to go, the Huskies found a way to right the ship and pull away. They would take the lead, 21-14, on a 7-yard TD run by Rocky Lombardi just four and half minutes before the break and never look back.

NIU (2-2) put up 604 total yards against Maine, which included two great performances on the ground from Harrison Waylee and quarterback Rocky Lombardi. It’s the most yards NIU has gained in a game since 2016 (when they torched Ball State for 653 yards) and the first time the Huskies have gone over 500 yards in a single game since they tallied 510 yards against Ohio nearly two years ago.

Waylee found big holes all game and averaging nearly six yards per carry as the Huskies amassed 292 rushing yards against the Black Bears. Waylee finished the day with 130 yards on 23 carries and found the endzone once. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi also found a ton of room on the ground and finished the game with Jordan Lynch-like numbers. The QB had 10 carries for 119 yards and three rushing TDs (including a 64-yard rush and an 18-yard scamper).

Lombardi was also able to throw the ball very effectively, as he connected on 70.8% of his throws (17/24) and had 282 yards passing with a TD and a pick. Tyrice Richie and Cole Tucker were his main targets. Richie had seven grabs for 76 yards while Tucker had 114 yards on just four catches. Clint Ratkovich had the lone receiving touchdown, a 22-yard reception that put the Huskies up 14-7 early in the second quarter.

The NIU defense would bend at times, allowing Maine to gain 290 yards - 165 through the air and 125 on the ground - but they held the Black Bears to just 2-11 on third downs and 0-1 on 4th down. Maine only managed 13 first downs all game. NIU had 29.

On defense a trio of Huskies finished tied for first place with eight tackles: C.J. Brown, Jordan Hansen, and Dillon Thomas. But the Huskies weren’t able to get too much pressure in the backfield, only netting four TFL and forcing two QB Hurries (both by Michael Kennedy). NIU did break up five passes though, with Jordan Gandy leading the way with two PBU (Kennedy, Hansen, and Eric Rogers with one each).

NIU will look to keep momentum going next week when they welcome the the Eastern Michigan Eagles to DeKalb for their 114th Homecoming game. It’s a 2:30 p.m. (EST) kickoff and will be the first MAC game for each team.