Huskies drop finale to Toledo

By Hyun Moon

Tailback Steve Cowan was Toledo’s grinder as he wore down the NIU football team’s defense, leading the Rockets to a 42-21 victory at the Glass Bowl on Saturday.

Cowan out-dueled senior fullback Adam Dach while both teams combined for 543 yards-rushing in 105 attempts. Cowan ran for 207 yards in 31 attemps. Dach, who scored all three touchdowns on 1-yard runs, rushed for 157 yards on 24 attempts, including a career-long 66-yarder in the first quarter.

The Huskies were down 14-7 at the half, but Cowan took over on the first drive of the second half, rushing for 54 yards in a drive that gave the Rockets a 21-7 lead. Cowan’s success also cleared the air for QB Kevin Meger, who completed 11-of-20 passes for 190 yards. Meger found a wide-open Marcus Goodwin for a 55-yard TD, extending the lead to 28-7 with 8:53 left in the third quarter.

“It’s called the weardown factor when teams are bigger and stronger than you,” NIU coach Charlie Sadler said.

The Huskies, who ended their season at 2-9, started a short rally, going on an 11-play, 68-yard TD drive to close to 28-14 with 4:41 left in the third.

The Rockets, 5-4-1, were on the move again when conerback Jeff Taylor intercepted and returned it 31 yards to the Toledo 32. Matt Golden, playing for injured Willy Roy Jr., missed a 23-yard field goal.

Toledo took over and marched 80 yards scoring on a 14-yard draw play by Meger. Cowan scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run with 1:27 left in the game.

NIU’s final score, with 6:06 remaining, was keyed by QB Rob Rugai’s 46-yard pass to Rakeem Short, which set up Dach’s last TD.

Dach rushed for 91 yards in the half. “In games where he had opportunities, he had big days,” Sadler said of his fullback. “Toledo, because of their formation, couldn’t stack the field on him; as a result, he had another 100-plus game. It’s a credit to him and his abilities.”

In the opening drive, the Huskies moved the ball under Rugai, who played the entire game, but tailback T.C. Dantzler couldn’t handle Rugai’s pitch and fumbled at the 50-yard line.

Rusty Hanna, who hit two field goals, made a 29-yarder to give the Rockets a 3-0. But on his next carry, Dach busted a 66-yarder before being caught at the two.

“It was just a basic dive play,” Dach said, “and I cut it back. The linebackers overran the play and I saw the opening.”

Rugai, who made his second consecutive start, led the Huskies to the Rocket 29, but on fourth-and-eight, Rugai’s sweep was inches short of the first down. Meger quickly led Toledo on the 70-yard journey and scored on an 8-yard scramble and also converted the two-point conversion on a draw play with 1:24 left in the half.