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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Football escapes Kent, clinches Bowl eligibility

Tim Dodge
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Dane Pardridge runs up the field during NIU football win over Western Michigan on Nov. 14. The Huskies earned bowl eligibility in Saturday’s win over Kent State. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB – A triumphant 37-27 victory over Kent State University (1-11, 0-8 MAC) on Saturday catapulted NIU football (6-6, 5-3 MAC) into postseason eligibility after missing out last year.

NIU is bowl-bound for the 15th time in school history and seventh since 2013. 

“Obviously, going to a bowl game is something that we needed to do and find a way to do – that’s important. It’s important for the players but it’s important for the development of your football team,” said NIU football head coach Thomas Hammock. “We get another couple of weeks to get our team better. We can take full advantage of that.”


NIU took an early 10-0 lead with less than five minutes left in the first quarter before KSU scored 17 unanswered points to seize the lead from the Huskies.

It took over two quarters for the Huskies to engineer a 10-play, 73-yard drive to regain the lead. Set up with a hard-fought reception from redshirt freshman wide receiver Dane Pardridge, redshirt senior quarterback Rocky Lombardi scored from the 1-yard line.

“That was a big drive for us momentum-wise – we needed to put something together,” Lombardi said. “We thought it would be the drive to start to put them away. It was a big play we needed – we needed a play, and I scrambled out right, saw Dane (Pardridge) and some open space, threw it to that open space and trusted him to go get it. He’s been a tremendous player for us these last couple of weeks – really, really helped out in critical moments.”


Stepping in for injured junior running back Antario Brown, redshirt junior running back Gavin Williams amassed 103 rushing yards on 17 attempts.

Williams pointed to his offensive line as the catalyst for his production on Saturday and for the running back core all season. 

“Well, first our run game doesn’t start anywhere without those, those big five guys in front of you,” Williams said. “So first, I would like to give them all the credit to all the runs that we had today.”

After allowing 366 total yards and 3 touchdowns, the Huskie defense bounced back with a pick-six on the final drive. 

“It just says we hard nosed and we fight to the last play,” said senior defensive end Raishein Thomas. “We try to make the best of every play … You don’t look at the scoreboard, we just keep fighting to make a play and keep making plays. We know we do and we come out on top.”


ESPN will reveal the participants for each bowl game during “Selection Sunday” on Dec. 3. 

“Obviously, we had some opportunities early in the season, but I like the way this team finishes,” Hammock said. “We got punched in the mouth at different points in the season and they responded to adversity. It’s a tough group, a fun group to coach and one I will always remember because a lot of times when there’s adversity, the tendency is to give up or to give in, and these guys never did that.”

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