It was a good Homecoming for Andre Wallace. As a result, it was a bad Homecoming for NIU.
Western Michigan’s Wallace, a native of Evanston who was recruited by the Huskies, ravaged NIU with 162 rushing yards Saturday and the clinching touchdown as the Broncos ruined NIU’s Homecoming, 22-10
More than 15,000 fans at Huskie Stadium watched the Huskies blow several opportunities to beat the Broncos and avoid dropping to 1-5.
But in the end, all the opportunities slipped through the Huskies’ hands, as did several catchable NIU passes as the Huskies dropped their fourth straight.
The dropped balls and three NIU fumbles made it a long afternoon against a team that Huskie head coach Charlie Sadler felt was beatable.
“This was a team we’re comparable too, we had an opportunity to beat them,” Sadler said. “There were some games we’ve played where I didn’t have that feeling.”
But blown opportunities helped Western Michigan move to 5-2.
“We dropped some balls … more than any game this year,” Sadler said. “We really missed some opportunities. In the first half we missed an opportunity for a field goal, and then we got down and fumbled right before halftime … the complexion of the game could have changed.”
The Huskies got on the board first as Willy Roy Jr. hit a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter. The Broncos took the lead for a short time after quarterback Brad Tayles hit flanker John Morton for a 55-yard TD. The Broncos added a field goal and another Tayles TD pass to lead 15-3 at half.
The first half was also notable because it may have been the start of an NIU quarterback controversy.
Starting QB Stacey McKinney hurt his shoulder midway through the second quarter and was relieved by Rob Rugai. Rugai drove the team on several occasions only to have an NIU miscue thwart its comeback efforts.
Rugai ran for a 13-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter to make it 15-10. WM responded with a drive that brought the ball to NIU’s 1-yard line, but linebacker Steve Henriksen (16 tackles) recovered a Broncos fumble setting up a possible comeback.
Rugai promptly drove the Huskies 79 yards to the WM 11. But a Rugai fumble killed the drive. Wallace then killed the Huskies with a 17-yard touchdown run with 2:42 left.
“I was pleased with what Rob (Rugai) did,” said Salder, who reinserted McKinney late in the game and declined to name a starter for next week.
“We’re not a great team, I don’t know if we’re a good team,” Sadler said. “We’re playing very average right now.”
Wallace, who walked-on at Western Michigan and was starting in place of injured Corey Sylve, had 26 friends and relatives in attendance.
His performance, and the loss, put a sour note on a milestone achieved by Huskies fullback Adam Dach. The senior had 46 yards on 12 attempts and passed the 3,000 career rushing yards mark; Dach is the leading active career rusher in the NCAA.
“All it is is a nice milestone,” Dach said. “When you’re 1-5, it doesn’t mean anything—it might ten years down the road.”
Receiver Larry Wynn had a career-best 172 yards on seven catches. For the game, McKinney was 5-of-12 for 86 yards. Rugai was 9-of-15 for 138. Both were sacked twice.