Football breaks losing streak in shootout

By Thomas Hiley

Football (3-3, 1-1 MAC) ended its three-game losing streak Saturday, earning the Battle for the Bronze Stalk against Ball State (2-4, 1-2 MAC).

The Cardinals started the second quarter quickly, putting up the first 10 points of the period. The Huskies scored their first touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run from junior wide receiver Kenny Golladay to close up the Ball State lead to 10-7. It was the first of four touchdowns for NIU in the second quarter.

The Cardinals scored on a field goal following the Golladay score before the Huskies went on a 21-0 run. Ball State used its two-minute offense to close the half, driving the ball 76 yards on 12 plays, capped off by a 2-yard James Gilbert touchdown run that brought the score to 28-20 NIU as halftime approached.

The Huskies started the second half with the ball and scored on their very first possession, moving down the field for 77 yards on 14 plays. A 1-yard touchdown run from sophomore tailback Jordan Huff increased their lead to 35-20.

The Cardinals answered back with a score of their own. Cardinals quarterback Riley Neal connected with sophomore receiver Corey Lacanaria twice for an 11-yard completion and a 16-yard completion before going deep to junior receiver KeVonn Mabon for a 48-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 35-27.

Junior wide receiver Aregeros Turner returned what looked like a kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on NIU.

The Huskies would go on to score on a 38-yard field goal, increasing the lead again to 38-27 heading into the final quarter.

NIU’s offense wouldn’t let up, scoring at the beginning of the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Drew Hare, just seven of the 21 points the Huskies would go on to score in the fourth.

The Cardinals scored 14 points in the final period, but it wasn’t enough to shorten the Huskies lead as the game finished a score of 59-41.

The numbers

Hare, after not putting up his usual numbers in his previous three games, completed 29 of his 32 passes for 363 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, averaging 2.6 yards-per-carry.

“Like coach said, we have a ton of talent out there, especially with the receivers and tight ends,” Hare said. “I know that every time I drop back, I don’t have to worry about it. I never have to worry who I’m throwing to on my reads and can focus on the defense.”

Hare’s 90 percent passing set an NIU record for completion percentage, previously held by Chandler Harnish. Golladay caught six of those passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, and Turner caught eight passes for 70 yards.

“Like I said before, we have a ton of confidence in Drew,” said head coach Rod Carey. “He’s our guy and he showed it again today, so we’re going to enjoy this for 24 hours, and then we’re going to get to work on the next opponent.”

The running game for the Huskies rushed for a total of 273 yards with junior Joel Bouagnon and Huff leading the way. Bouagnon had 149 yards and two touchdowns, and Huff had 87 yards and two touchdowns of his own.

“We’ve had three good weeks of practice; we really have, and for some reason offensively it wasn’t happening in games,” Carey said. “Today a little bit more of the same in the first quarter, and then kind of got our feet underneath us and kind of got going.”

The Huskies will move forward after their win against the Cardinals as they travel to Oxford, Ohio next week to face off against Miami (Ohio) (1-5, MAC 0-2) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Yager Stadium. NIU won the last matchup between the teams 51-41.