In front of a capacity crowd at Huskie Stadium, No. 23 NIU football came away with a 27-20 victory in its Homecoming matchup with Akron on Saturday.
The victory increased the Huskies’ (6-0, 2-0 MAC) home-game winning streak to 23, which is a new MAC record for consecutive home game wins. The Huskies also extended their MAC winning streak to 19 games, the nation’s longest conference winning streak.
The Huskies did not play their best football on Saturday, but they did enough to come out with the win. The Huskies’ offense struggled to get into a rhythm, going just 1-15 on third downs.
“I was out of rhythm and missing throws,” said quarterback Jordan Lynch. “A lot of credit goes to Akron’s defense. They played us well, and they’re fundamentally sound. I never got into a good rhythm throwing and making completions. It really comes down to us, though.”
On the Zips’ first drive of the game, they marched right down the field and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Jawon Chisholm to take an early 7-0 lead.
The Huskies responded immediately as Lynch put together a 74-yard drive on six plays. With Lynch looking for an open receiver, he took off toward the end zone and scored from 18 yards out to tie the game, 7-7.
“The way that quarterback leads that team, he wasn’t making big chunks like he usually does,” said Akron coach Terry Bowden. “But he doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t give us the game or give us a chance.”
NIU’s defense made adjustments on the Zips’ next drive and forced a three and out, leading to a 42-yard field goal from kicker Tyler Wedel, who was filling in for Mathew Sims.
The Huskies’ defense forced another quick three and out and Lynch wasted no time, hitting tight end Desroy Maxwell for a 25-yard touchdown pass to give the Huskies a 17-7 lead.
After a series of three and outs for both teams, the Zips cut the deficit to three, as Chisholm scored his second rushing touchdown of the game from 1 yard out.
Both offenses struggled to get anything going as there were seven punts between the two teams, while Wedel had a 46-yard field goal attempt blocked. The Huskies’ offense looked in sync on its first drive of the second half.
Wide receiver Tommylee Lewis took an end-around for 16 yards and caught a 40-yard pass from Lynch. The drive culminated with a 9-yard touchdown run from running back Cameron Stingily, increasing the Huskies’ lead, 24-14.
In the fourth quarter the Huskies’ defense came up with the only turnover of the game when Jimmie Ward picked off Akron’s Kyle Pohl. Ward’s fifth interception of the season led to a 21-yard field goal from Wedel to put the Huskies up 13.
The Zips answered with a long 18-play, 75-yard touchdown drive when Pohl connected with wide receiver Tyrell Goodman for an 11-yard strike. The score remained 27-20 when the Huskies blocked the extra point attempt.
It was up to the Huskies’ defense to keep the Zips out of the end zone, and it answered the call, making two big defensive stands to close out the game.
“I mean, to get those two stops at the end of the game, to ice the game away, I’m really proud of them on the way they executed,” said coach Rod Carey.