Football fights off late scare for fifth straight win

By Christopher Loggins

Football (7-3, 5-1 MAC) fought off a late-game comeback from Buffalo (5-5, 3-3 MAC) to win its fifth consecutive game and move into third place in the MAC West.

BU scored its only points of the first half early in the first quarter on a field goal. The Huskies followed up with a high-scoring run that spanned nearly two quarters.

NIU got on the board early after redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Graham connected with junior wide receiver Kenny Golladay on a touchdown, giving it an early 7-3 lead. Junior running back Joel Bouagnon kept the run going not long after, taking a carry 58 yards to give the Huskies the 14-3 lead heading into the second quarter.

Bouagnon was able to get into the endzone again early in the second quarter after interceptions from sophomore cornerback Shawun Lurry and senior safety Marlon Moore, pushing the lead to 21-3. Sophomore running back Jordan Huff scored the last points of the first half on a short touchdown run that gave the Huskies a 28-3 lead going into halftime.

Second half

Buffalo began a tough comeback in the third quarter, scoring its first touchdown to shorten the deficit to 18 points. The team scored again later in the quarter, giving it 16 for the game. The Bulls outscored the Huskies 13-3 in the period.

NIU led 31-16 heading into the fourth. The Huskies decided to attempt a first down on 4th-and-3, a move that backfired as Buffalo intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown to bring it within eight points, the closest it was since NIU led 7-3 in the first quarter.

Graham connected with Golladay again shortly after on a 68-yard touchdown, Golladay’s longest catch of the season and his second touchdown of the day. The score bumped the Huskies’ lead back up to 15 points.

The Bulls continued their comeback attempt late in the game, scoring on a long touchdown to trim the deficit to eight points again with 6:46 remaining. Sophomore kicker Christian Hagan gave NIU a cushion down the stretch as he kicked a 47-yard field goal to give the team a 41-30 lead that ultimately decided the game.

Buffalo got the ball back with a chance to keep the game going, but were stopped after an interception by redshirt sophomore safety Brandon Mayes, giving the Huskies the 11-point win.

The numbers

Graham went 15-24 in his first career start, throwing for 190 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a fumble. He also ran the ball 18 times for 78 yards.

Bouagnon crossed the 1,000 yard mark for rushing yards in the game, carrying 28 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns and earning 17 total touchdowns on the year. Golladay was one of only two NIU receivers who caught a pass in the game, picking up six receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Shawun Lurry is tied for the nation lead in interceptions with eight and is tied with Dan Meyer for second place on the Huskies’ single-season interceptions list. He’ll have a chance to make a run at Al Jones, who holds the first place record with 10 picks in 1951.

NIU will move on to play against MAC-West leading Western Michigan (6-4), a team it has beaten six straight times dating back to the 2009-10 season. The game will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Huskie Stadium.