Snatching Victory: Football defeats Big Ten’s Iowa in final seconds of Saturday game


Junior wide out TommyLee Lewis about to be tackled by a Hawkeye defender late August at Kinnick Stadium. NIU will face the Vandals in their second match of the season on Saturday.

By Brian Earle

Revenge may not have been on NIU football’s mind, but that’s exactly what the team got Saturday in Iowa City.

In a rematch with the Hawkeyes (0-1), the Huskies (1-0) rolled into hostile Kinnick Stadium and rallied for a 30-27 victory in their season opener. The Huskies were lifted to victory on the clutch leg of senior kicker Mathew Sims, who drilled a 36-yard game-winning field goal with four seconds left in the contest.

This was Sims’ third game-winning field goal of his career.

“[It was] just another kick, just another win for our team,” Sims said. “Obviously I learned a long time ago I have to treat every kick the same. So, I looked at it the exact same as every other kick.”

Sims was perfect on the day, hitting all three of his field goal attempts, including a 47-yard field goal to open up the scoring in the first quarter and a 25-yard field goal in the third quarter. Sims’ field goal was set up by senior safety Jimmie Ward, who jumped a route with 1:17 remaining in the game and picked off Iowa sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock to put the Huskies at the 30-yard line.

Senior quarterback Jordan Lynch was a completely different player than he was in last season’s 18-17 defeat. He showed off what he can do in the passing game, throwing for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Lynch looked to be comfortable and in sync with his receiving core.

NIU jumped out to a quick start as it claimed a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, following a Sims field goal and a 40-yard touchdown pass from Lynch to junior wide out TommyLee Lewis, who burned his defender.

The momentum shifted back to the Hawkeyes when Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey forced a fumble from junior tight end Luke Eakes. Kirksey recovered the fumble and ran it back for a 52-yard touchdown, cutting NIU’s lead to 10-7. That was the start of a period where the Hawkeyes scored 17 unanswered point to take a 17-10 lead. Iowa senior kicker Mike Meyer connected on a 28-yard field goal to tie the game, 10-10, and later in the second quarter Rudock connected with senior tight end CJ Fiedorowicz in the end zone for an 11-yard strike.

Lynch and Lewis struck yet again, as the duo connected on a 21-yard touchdown to end the Huskies’ scoring drought and tie the game, 17-17. With 53 seconds left in the first half, Rudock reclaimed the lead for the Hawkeyes as he scrambled for 6 yards into the end zone.

The Hawkeyes led the Huskies 24-17 going into the half. In the third quarter, neither team’s offense could effectively move the ball until the Huskies turned to their bread and butter.

On fourth and five from the Iowa 46-yard line, the Huskies faked a punt in which the ball was direct snapped to sophomore tight end Desroy Maxwell, who then tossed it to junior punter Tyler Wedel who ran for 42 yards down to the Iowa 9-yard line.

“We had to find a way to make a play,” said coach Rod Carey. “They hemmed us up on offense, and we had to do something to get going.”

After trading field goals, the Huskies trailed 27-20 in the fourth quarter and Lynch led the Huskies down the field on arguably their best drive of the game. The Huskies went 75 yards in six plays, resulting in Lynch hooking up with senior wide out Da’Ron Brown for a 33-yard touchdown to tie the game at 27-27.

Lynch has talked about how it’s not enough to come close to winning games against big BCS schools and the Huskies to start closing games out. The Huskies did just that with their victory over the Hawkeyes.

“It feels good to play your first game on the road and get a victory against a Big Ten team,” Lynch said. “We’re putting the program on the map.”