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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Football downs Eagles, wins third straight

Tim Dodge
Redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12) runs for the first down against Eastern Michigan. The Huskies defeated the Eagles 20-13. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB – With a goal-line stretch by redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi in the final two minutes of regulation, NIU football (4-4, 3-1 MAC) pulled away from Eastern Michigan University (4-4, 2-2 MAC) by a score of 20-13. 

The Huskie offense racked up just 257 yards of total offense, 75 of which came on the first offensive possession. Despite finding the end zone on just two drives, NIU head football coach Thomas Hammock was proud of the way his coaching staff and players rallied. 

“First of all, I couldn’t be more proud of our players and our coaching staff,” Hammock said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve battled together, and we’ve gone back-to-back with each other to dig ourselves out of the hole.” 


Flags rained down all afternoon with both sides combining for 17 penalties, 10 of which were called against NIU. Despite committing double-digit penalties for the first time all season, Hammock was proud of his group’s perseverance.  

“We knew the officials in this game called a lot of penalties, and that’s what you show today and that’s part of the game,” Hammock said. “So, it is what it is. We found a way to win, and I’m proud of our team.” 


NIU has tallied five fourth-quarter interceptions in the last two weeks – three in the game against Ohio University and two on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore safety Cyrus McGarrell came away with the first interception, and junior defensive tackle Devonte O’Malley recorded the second on the final play from scrimmage. 

“We take huge pride showing up in the fourth quarter,” junior linebacker Jaden Dolphin said. “We were involved in ball disruptions everyday in practice, and it obviously showed up today.”

With just two minutes remaining and the game on the line in the fourth quarter, junior wide receiver Grayson Barnes caught a 26-yard pass on third down to move the ball to the 36 yard line.

“I got hip-to-hip or past the nickel there … I saw the opening and I saw the ball in the air,” Barnes said. “He (Lombardi) could not put it in a better spot for me to go get it and get the first down.” 

Lombardi put the game on ice with a one-yard goal line stretch set up by a 34-yard run by redshirt junior running back Gavin Williams. 

With Saturday’s win, the Huskies improved to .500 for the first time since Week 2 and moved to second in the MAC West.

“That was a big thing for us to get back to .500,” Hammock said. “We dug ourselves in a hole there for a month. But you know, it is still one game at a time now.” 


The Huskies hit the road for a showdown against Central Michigan University at 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at Kramer/Deromedi Field at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Live stats will be available via SideArm Stats, and the game will be televised on ESPN2

“The players will have some time off the next few days to get back and to enjoying the game of football,” Hammock said.

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