Late heroics cement win for football

By Frank Gogola

Following a third quarter and early fourth quarter to forget, football (3-0) bookended a timely interception with two fourth-quarter scoring drives to escape Las Vegas with a 48-34 win over the Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels (1-2).

The Rebels knotted the game, 34-34, with 9:18 to play after the Huskies had held a 23-point lead, 28-5, with 11:59 remaining in the third quarter, but NIU didn’t go into panic mode.

With the score tied, the Huskies struck quickly as redshirt sophomore Drew Hare connected with senior wide receiver Da’Ron Brown for a 54-yard touchdown pass with 8:23 to play. The touchdown pass came immediately after the Huskies converted a third-and-one; they went 15-of-19 on third downs in the victory.

But, the Rebels wouldn’t go away. They began the ensuing drive on their own 25-yard line, making it to the NIU 7-yard line before Marlon Moore picked off Rebels quarterback Blake Decker in the end zone. The ball was tipped by Paris Logan, who was covering Decker’s intended target.

“I think [UNLV’s Devante Davis] is as good as there is in the country at wide receiver,” said head coach Rod Carey, according to a news release. “He and Paris [Logan] had been going at it all night, and [Davis] had probably been getting the better of him for the most part. But then, there’s Paris. He made a great tip, and Marlon [Moore] made a great catch. Give our kids credit; they were focused when they needed to be.”

From there, the Huskies embarked on a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by redshirt senior tailback Cameron Stingily to put the Huskies up 48-34 with 1:56 to play.

The Huskies forced a turnover on downs on the Rebels’ next drive and were able to run out the clock.

While the Huskies closed the game out strong to push their record to 3-0, they nearly gave the game away with poorly executed play in all three phases of the game in the third quarter and early fourth quarter.

Trailing 28-5 with 11:59 to go in the third quarter, the Rebels drove 75 yards on six plays, including three receptions of 17 or more yards against a suddenly porous NIU defense, to pull within 28-12.

Tyler Wedel pushed the lead to 31-12 with a career-long 45-yard field goal with 7:06 left in the third quarter, and the Huskies looked like they would get the ball back after forcing a three-and-out inside the Rebels’ 10-yard line.

Desroy Maxwell was called for a personal foul of roughing the kicker on a Rebels punt, which resulted in an automatic first down for the Rebels. Three plays later, Decker found wide receiver Davis, who beat true freshman cornerback Albert Smalls down the sideline, for a 53-yard touchdown to make the score 31-19.

Hare returned at quarterback after sitting out one series so Anthony Maddie could get reps, and the offense picked up one first down before fumbling the ball away. The Rebels recovered, and Shaquille Murray-Lawrence scampered into the end zone from 2 yards out four plays later on fourth-and-goal to cut the Rebels’ deficit to five points, 31-26.

The Huskies stumbled again on their next drive, going three-and-out for the first time Saturday. After a UNLV punt, the Huskies went up 34-26 on a Wedel 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Less than two minutes later, Murray-Lawrence rushed into the end zone from 9 yards out and the Rebels converted a two-point attempt to tie the game, 34-34.

But, the Huskies made plays when they needed to and closed the game strong, scoring the game’s final 14 points to secure the win.