Football answers to ‘adversity’ in game


Redshirt junior Cameron Stingily makes a leaping play Saturday against Idaho.

By Frank Gogola

Going into Moscow, Idaho, as heavy favorites, NIU football (2-0) used a second-half rally to escape with a victory over the Idaho Vandals (0-3).

After falling behind 28-14 with 9:35 to play in the second half, the Huskies outscored the Vandals 31-7 to survive a huge upset.

The Huskies were 28.5-point favorites to win but used contributions across the board to survive, squeaking out an ugly 45-35 victory.

After missing a field goal for the first time this season, senior kicker Mathew Sims nailed a 51-yarder with 10:49 remaining to put the Huskies up for good, 38-35. Redshirt senior quarterback Jordan Lynch finished his day 17-of-29 for 152 yards and three touchdowns, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior tight end Luke Eakes with 7:25 remaining. The move put the Huskies up 45-35, securing their victory.

“I’m really happy with the way they responded to all of the adversity,” head coach Rod Carey said in a news release. “The fourth quarter is what we pride ourselves on. If it’s a fourth-quarter game, we have that belief that we are going to come through.”

Lynch added a team-high 23 carries for a team-best 159 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Junior wide receiver Tommylee Lewis had nine receptions for 56 yards and four rushes for 104 yards in his first game back from an injury.

The Huskies gave up 28 first-half points, were penalized 11 times for 107 yards, fumbled the ball twice and had a fourth-quarter punt blocked. However, they forced three fumbles, allowed only four third-down conversions on 16 attempts and held the Vandals to one second-half touchdown.

“You’ve got to love the win, take the win, be happy we got the win,” Carey said in a news release. “I’m proud of our kids and proud of the adjustments by our defensive coaches. We have a lot of things to work on in every phase. It was by no means a complete game.”

The Vandals drove 75 yards on the opening drive, as running back James Baker took the ball in from 1 yard out to get the Vandals on the board at the 11:22 mark. After the Huskies went three-and-out, senior defensive end Joe Windsor forced a fumble out of Idaho and senior defensive tackle Ken Bishop recovered it. The Huskies converted the turnover into points, as Lynch tied the game, 7-7, with a 5-yard touchdown run with 8:15 left in the first quarter.

The Vandals extended their lead to 21-7 with a pair of touchdown passes. Quarterback Chad Chalich connected with running back Richard Montgomery for a 27-yard touchdown pass with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter and found Baker for a 37-yard touchdown pass nine seconds into the second quarter.

The Huskies cut the deficit to 21-14 when Lynch hooked up with sophomore running back Keith Harris Jr. for a 15-yard touchdown less than a minute- and-a-half later. The Vandals stretched the lead back to 14 when quarterback Joshua McCain found the end zone on a 34-yard touchdown rush with 9:35 until the half. From there on out, the Huskies dominated the Vandals, outscoring them 31-7.

Redshirt junior running back Cameron Stingily rushed for a 2-yard touchdown, the first of his career, at 6:06. Trailing 28-21 going into the second half, Lynch found redshirt junior wide receiver Da’Ron Brown on a 3-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with 9:54. On their next position, Lynch gave the Huskies their first lead of the game, 35-28, with a 61-yard touchdown run.

The Vandals forced a Lynch fumble late in the third quarter, and Baker rushed in from 1 yard out 41 seconds into the fourth quarter to tie the game at 35. From there, the Huskies dominated the fourth quarter and scored the final 10 points to avoid an early-season upset.

“All the credit goes to Idaho,” Lynch said in a news release. “They played us tough, had a great game plan. We never really got in rhythm on offense. We still put up 45 points and I’m sitting here complaining, so there were some things that went right and we were able to find those and build on them.”

With the victory, the Huskies improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2003, when they started 7-0. They will open the home portion of their schedule on Sept. 21, when they host the Eastern Illinois Panthers (3-0) at Huskie Stadium.