Final drive seals Huskie victory

By Nathan Lindquist

With five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the 1987 AFC Championship, John Elway and the Denver Broncos found themselves down 20-13 to the Cleveland Browns and pinned on their own 2 yard line.

But the deficit was just a staging ground for Elway to cement his legendary status with a 98-yard scoring march that went down in history as simply, “The Drive”.

The stakes last night at the NIU-Miami-Ohio game weren’t as high as a trip to the Super Bowl. In fact, the Huskies held a 35-27 lead and the ball with over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. But after Miami seized the momentum with 10 unanswered points, NIU knew it had to finish off the RedHawks right then to keep its postseason aspirations alive.

Over the ensuing seven minutes and 42 seconds, junior running back Garrett Wolfe did his best Elway impersonation and put the Huskies on his back over the final 13-play, 74-yard drive.

On third down and five yards to go on its own 25 yard line, NIU offense was feeling the pressure. Another three and out and Miami would have plenty of time to score. But junior quarterback Phil Horvath stood in the pocket and delivered the ball to junior wideout Sam Hurd, who promptly broke off an 18-yard gain for a crucial first down.

“It came down to calling good plays,” NIU coach Joe Novak said. “Things were real tight, We had to treat it like it was 0-0. They were coming back, but we were able to establish the run.”

And run they did. From there on out it was the Garrett Wolfe Show. Despite the fact Miami coach Shane Montgomery was concentrating on shutting down the run attack, the next 10 plays were drawn up for No. 1.

But instead of hitting the sidelines for big play yards, Wolfe and the offensive line chose to keep attacking the defensive line and grinding down the linebackers with power running.

“Grinding them down definitely helped our momentum,” Wolfe said. “I heard [Miami] saying ‘No matter how hard we hit him, he keeps getting back up.’ I was seeing the holes my offensive line was creating and I’m only as good as they allow me to be.”

After consecutive runs of 16 and 12 yards brought NIU into the Miami red zone, a holding penalty put NIU back 10 yards and the drive in peril. After a Wolfe run for no gain, NIU was faced with a third and 15.

Despite the significant yardage involved, the Huskies once again handed the ball to the junior starter who promptly ran into a crowd of bodies at the line of scrimmage. It appeared as if that was as far as the Huskies would go, but Wolfe miraculously reversed his field out of the pack and scampered 14 yards to the Miami six-yard line.

A 23-yard field goal for freshman kicker Chris Nendick followed and put the Huskies up for good with under two minutes to play en route to a 38-27 victory. While it may not prove to change the course of the Huskies season, the final drive proved Garrett Wolfe to be Mr. Clutch.