After a 36-day hiatus, all NIU did for an encore
was come back from 13 points down to beat Arkansas State 38-20 to
win the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
“I’m really proud of our guys and our coaches to
win nine in-a-row and a bowl game is great,” said NIU head coach
Dave Doeren. “It was fun. I’m proud of the Huskies and our
Arkansas State (10-3) got off to a fast start,
scoring two field goals and a touchdown on its first three
possessions. However, the Red Wolves were stopped twice in the red
zone by NIU’s (11-3) defense, which allowed zero points to Arkansas
State after the first quarter of play.
NIU found its rhythm toward the end of the first
quarter, as quarterback Chandler Harnish engineered an 11-play,
77-yard drive and found receiver Perez Ashford for a nine yard
The Huskies suffered a scare in the second
quarter when Harnish went down with a bum ankle, but back-up
quarterback Jordan Lynch hit receiver Martel Moore on a 41 yard
pass that set up his three yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a
14 to 13 lead.
Shortly after the Red Wolves failed again to
start moving the ball on offense, Harnish came back into the game
to a standing ovation and promptly led the Huskies downfield for
NIU capitalized on two key Red Wolves mistakes;
a muffed punt and a roughing the kicker penalty. These errors kept
the ball in NIU's hands and eventually set up a Jamal Womble
touchdown run to put it up 21-13 at the half.
“The penalties really hurt us,” said David Gunn,
Arkansas State interim head coach. “They were momentum swingers,
and they were certainly the difference in the ball
Arkansas State intercepted Harnish when Red
Wolves defensive back Chaz Scales ripped the ball out of the hands
of NIU wide receiver Nathan Palmer. Red Wolves quarterback Ryan
Aplin’s tipped pass fell into the hands of NIU defensive back Jhony
Faustin on the very next play, setting up a 43 yard bomb from
Harnish to Moore, putting the Huskies up 28-13.
The Huskies defense kept up the pressure as
defensive end Stephen O’Neal sacked Aplin, forcing a fumble on the
Red Wolves six yard line that was recovered by NIU.
The Huskies placekicker Matt Sims missed his
second field goal of the day following the exchange, but it didn’t
matter; Aplin could not get into a comfortable rhythm with his
receivers, repeatedly overthrowing, underthrowing and missing open
After Sims made a 22 yard field goal to give NIU
a 31 to 13 advantage going into the fourth quarter, the Red Wolves
responded with a 17 yard fingertip touchdown catch by Taylor
Stockemer, pulling ASU within 11 points, making the score 31 to
Neither team had much a running game at all, as
the Huskies had 24 yards on 25 carries and the Red Wolves managed
20 yards on 25 carries.
The game was largely decided through the air.
Stockemer caught 11 passes for 185 yards for th Red Wolves, while
Moore had eight receptions for 224 yards and Ashford was targeted
heavily, hauling in eight receptions for 80 yard.
Harnish, who took a beating at the hands of the
Red Wolves defense, finished with 274 passing yards, two touchdowns
on 18-36 passing attempts.