Turnovers and mistakes from the offense led to the football team’s second straight loss Tuesday, dropping their road game 28-21 against the Western Michigan Broncos.
Sophomore quarterback Marcus Childers committed three turnovers, including a late interception, ultimately downing the team. Childers finished the game with 156 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The protection for the quarterback cost the team, with Childers sacked four times. The Broncos achieved this in their first game under interim defensive coordinator Lou Esposito.
Head Coach Rod Carey said the offense was not up to his standard.
“Just a complete failure on offense,” Carey said. “Whether it was protection [or] throws, the interception was thrown too late.
The NIU defense saw one of their strongest performances of the year from junior defensive end Sutton Smith, who finished the game with four sacks, five tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery touchdown. Junior linebacker Kyle Pugh led the team with nine tackles.
The defense struggled in the secondary, giving up 285 passing yards to Broncos’ first-year quarterback Kaleb Eleby in his third career start. Eleby also had a rushing touchdown.
Eleby helped put the Broncos up early, connecting with first-year wide receiver Jayden Reed on a 39-yard pass to put WMU inside the Huskies’ five-yard line.
Redshirt senior running back Jamauri Bogan finished the drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown to put the Broncos up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
While Eleby lifted WMU, Childers put the Huskies in dangerous field position with a fumble forced by senior defensive lineman Eric Assoua and recovered by the defense.
The Broncos took over at the NIU 19 but failed to convert the field position into points because of a 36-yard missed field goal from first-year kicker Gavin Peddie.
Childers made up for his turnover on the opening drive by connecting with a wide-open redshirt junior Spencer Tears for a 58-yard pass for a touchdown, tying the game at 7-7 to end the first quarter.
The Huskies looked to score again on their next possession, reaching the WMU 28 yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
WMU stalled out on a drive early in the second quarter, but a holding penalty on senior cornerback Jalen Embry gave the Broncos new light. A 45-yard field goal from the Broncos gave them a 10-7 lead.
Following an NIU three and out, WMU took over at their own 48 and drove into NIU territory. The defense bent but didn’t break, forcing the Broncos to settle for a 42-yard field goal and take a 13-7 lead into halftime.
After an offensively lackluster second quarter, the Huskies turned up the tempo to start the second half.
Childers led a 16-play, 82-yard drive, finishing with a one-yard rush into the end zone to put NIU up 14-13 to open the third quarter.
the Broncos soon responded as Eleby threw for 84 yards on an 87-yard touchdown drive, ending with Eleby getting his own rushing touchdown. A successful two-point conversion put the Broncos up 21-14.
On the first play of the following drive, Childers committed his second costly mistake of the night, throwing an interception to WMU junior linebacker Drake Spears.
The Huskies’ defense capitalized on a mistake from Western Michigan as a botched handoff was fumbled, recovered and returned 85 yards by Smith for a touchdown to tie the game 21-21 to end the third quarter.
With the game still tied and 7:32 remaining, the Broncos started a drive at their own 17-yard line.
The NIU defense appeared to be on its way to a key stop, but a targeting penalty by junior defensive end Josh Corcoran continued the drive and put Western Michigan past midfield.
Corcoran was also ejected from the game and will be suspended for the first half of the Mid-American Conference Championship game.
Bogan carried his offense past the weakened Huskies’, ending the drive with a one-yard running touchdown with 1:36 remaining for a 28-21 lead.
The Huskies had plenty of time for one last drive, but Childers overthrew his target and was intercepted by first-year defensive back Harrison Taylor on the first play of the drive.
The Broncos ran out the clock, ending their regular season with a win for a 7-5 overall record and a bowl game in their future. The Huskies’ loss puts them at 7-5 overall with a 6-2 conference record.
NIU looks to their matchup in the MAC title game in Detroit Nov. 30 against Buffalo. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. and the game can be viewed live on ESPN2.
Students can attend the game for free by filling out a request form at niuhuskies.com. Tickets are also available for purchase at the website.