Huskies take down UNLV 38-30

By Patrick Smith

Football (1-0, 0-0 MAC) opened the season Saturday with a win over UNLV (0-1, 0-0 MWC), rallying in the second half of the game to defeat the Rebels 38-30.

UNLV opened the game with an immediate strike, scoring on a 64-yard pass from senior quarterback Blake Decker to Devonte Boyd only three minutes into the contest. The quarter would end with the Rebels leading 7-3 after a 48-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Christian Hagan.

The Rebels led 17-3 after an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Kurt Palandech and a 21-yard field goal by junior kicker Nicolai Bornand. A 75-yard Huskies drive, capped off by a touchdown catch from tight end Shane Wimann, trimmed the lead to 17-10 heading into halftime.

“I felt like we kind of shot ourselves in the foot early with penalties,” said head coach Rod Carey. “We came out too hyped for the first game, but we settled down after we made adjustments and got a score before half.”

The second half began with a 16-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Drew Hare to tight end Desroy Maxwell, tying the game at 17. NIU would go on to take its first lead of the game late in the third quarter, scoring on a touchdown by junior running back Joel Bouagnon, bringing the score to 24-20.

In the last period, Bouagnon would score two more rushing touchdowns, bringing his game total to three and the score to 38-23. The Rebels made a late run, trimming the lead to 38-30 after a 41-yard touchdown pass from Decker to senior receiver Aaron Criswell. A last attempt at tying the game ended after UNLV turned the ball over on downs, ending the game and giving NIU its first win on the season.

Quarterback Drew Hare went 21-26 on the day, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to a career-high 360 yards. Joel Bouagnon carried the ball 21 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns, leading all rushers.

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay picked up a total of nine catches in the game for 213 yards, leading all receivers on the day.

“I think it was the flow of the game that took a while for me to get going,” Golladay said. “Once I settled down and the team settled in we found a groove and I was able to make plays.”

Golladay, a transfer from North Dakota, earned MAC West Player of the Week honors after his first game as a Huskie. He gained more receiving yards than any player in the country, averaging 23.7 yards per catch and having three receptions of over 40 yards.

Rebels quarterback Blake Decker went 21-39, throwing for 319 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Junior running back Keith Whitely led the Rebels in rushing, ending the game with 21 carries for a total of 68 yards and no touchdowns. UNLV was led in receiving by wide receiver Kendal Keys, who caught six passes for 62 yards and no touchdowns.

“We felt like we had a great opportunity to win a football game tonight,” said UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez. “We had some momentum in the first half. We have to do a better job scoring in the red zone, and the defense did a great job of not giving up a bunch of big plays. … We definitely have some work to do. It’s a good football team, but we’re going to keep getting better.”

NIU will face off against Murray State (1-0) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Huskie Stadium. The Racers are coming off a season debut in which they beat Kentucky Wesleyan 52-12.

Sports Editor Chris Loggins contributed to this report.