Huskies nip winless Owls 20-17

By Thom Gippert

The NIU football team assured itself of a winning record this season after it downed the Temple Owls 20-17 Saturday in Philadelphia.

The Huskies’ record is 6-2, and they have put together two consecutive winning seasons. Last year, NIU finished with a 7-4 ledger.

In front of 15,712 Veterans Stadium spectators, Huskie quarterback Stacy Robinson continued his magical season as the “Wishbone Wizard II”. Robinson became NIU’s all-time single- season rushing leader for quarterbacks with 892 yards this season, breaking Marshall Taylor’s mark of 826 set in 1987.

Robinson, who had 87 yards rushing on the day, scored on a run of 35 yards in the first half and guided a pair of second half touchdowns to keep the Owls winless this season (0-8).

Temple, led by the strong running of tailback Ventres Stevenson, was in the game until the last seconds ticked away. The lead teetered back and forth throughout the game, but NIU’s determined offense and big-play defense proved too much for the Owls.

Temple took the opening kickoff and drove 57 yards to start the scoring as kicker Bob Wright hit a 27-yard field goal to give the Owls the early 3-0 lead.

Robinson then took control for the Huskies. Early in the second quarter the junior QB drove NIU 66 yards on seven plays as the drive ended with Robinson’s 35-yard TD run to make the score 7-3.

After a punt return of 43 yards by Temple’s Rich Drayton, the Owls made the most of excellent field position when Stevenson scored on a one-yard TD plunge to give the Owls the advantage again 10-7, which would be the score at halftime.

Stevenson, the six-foot, 190-pound senior, had an excellent first half rushing. He ran 109 yards on 22 carries in the first thirty minutes of play. The second half was quite different.

Stevenson was held to just 24 yards rushing in the second half and the key for the Huskies was sustaining and scoring on offensive drives.

NIU began the second half with a time-consuming, confidence- building drive that culminated in a Adam Dach touchdown run of four yards to give the Huskies a 14-10 edge. The drive consisted of 15 plays, 70 yards and 8:04 elapsed time.

“To take that much time off the clock and keep them off the field and score some points, it was just an excellent drive,” NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone said.

Temple countered NIU’s drive by building one of their own. Temple quarterback Anthony Richardson put the Owls back on top once again as he ran 15 yards for the Owl TD to make the score 17-14 in favor of Temple. The Owl drive lasted 10 plays, went 75 yards and lasted 5:08.

The Huskies drove once again. In the fourth quarter, NIU marched the ball 56 yards on seven plays as Robinson scored his second touchdown of the game when he ran in from eight yards out to make the final tally 20-17.

NIU received an outstanding defensive team effort. Lineman Cary Caliendo led the Huskies with 14 tackles and was in on two sacks. Defensive back Brett Tucker grabbed his second interception of the season and defensive back Steve Christian made a big pass deflection late in the fourth quarter.

“After their initial drive, we settled down and played well. They had a big, physical line and our players responded well,” Pettibone said of his Huskie defense.

The Huskies will be at home next week as they play host to Southeastern Louisiana.