Offensive outburst favors NIU

By Thom Gippert

The Rockets were shot down and a goal post was pulled down in NIU’s 39-27 win over Toledo Saturday afternoon.

After the game, some of the 5,971 fans stormed the field, pulled down a goal post and carried it to the West Lagoon in celebration of the Huskies (8-2) going undefeated at home this year – the first time NIU has done that since the 1983 season.

In the season’s home finale for the Huskies, NIU’s Raymond Patterson set the tone for the game by scampering 60 yards with the opening kickoff to give the Huskies great field position.

Two plays later, halfback Corey Ray ran 25 yards to put the Huskies up 7-0 only a minute into the game. After that, the scoring was fast and furious.

“It was not a defensive show by any means,” said Toledo coach Dan Simrell, whose team now stands at 5-5.

After Toledo evened the score later in the first quarter, NIU’s Patterson struck again, this time as a running back. Patterson took a Stacey Robinson pitch and galloped 57 yards down the right sideline for a Huskie touchdown to give NIU a 14-7 edge. Patterson, a true freshman from Kinloch, Mo., ended the day with 87 yards rushing and 171 yards on kickoff returns.

The Rockets fired back. Toledo kicker Rusty Hanna nailed a 28-yard field goal. Then, an eight-play, 81-yard second quarter drive was capped off by a Ben Tombaugh one-yard touchdown plunge to give Toledo a 17-14 advantage.

On NIU’s next possession, Robinson guided a 10-play drive covering 61 yards and ending in a five-yard TD run by Robinson, one of his two TDs on the day, to make it 21-17 in favor of NIU.

On Toledo’s first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, NIU defensive tackle Ted Hennings sacked Rocket QB Kevin Meger in the end zone for a safety and two NIU points that made it 23-17.

“I think the defensive line did a very good job of putting pressure on them today,” said NIU head coach Jerry Pettibone.

The defensive line had an outstanding day as Hennings racked up three sacks and 13 tackles and fellow lineman Cary Caliendo collected 10 tackles and two sacks.

The lead went back to Toledo, however, later in the second quarter. Meger, a red-shirt freshman making his first start, rambled in from three yards out to give Toledo the lead again, 24-23.

NIU’s Robinson answered his counterpart, though, when the nation’s leading rushing quarterback scored on a three-yard run to put the Huskies back on top, 29-24.

The scoring settled down a little in the second half, but not before a big play by the Huskies.

On NIU’s first possession of the second half, Robinson connected with split end Mark Clancy for a 58-yard Huskie bomb to give NIU a 36-27 lead.

“When you run and run and run, you commit to defend the run and then they hit you with that one,” Simrell said.

While NIU’s bread and butter is running the ball, Robinson didn’t mind the change of pace in going deep.

“This is our first home run ball. This was the first time Mark and I hooked up on the post pattern and it was about time we did that,” Robinson said.

Robinson also said the Huskies have tried that all year, but good defensive plays have stopped them.

NIU kicker John Ivanic hit a 32-yard field goal to end the Huskie scoring.

After the game, however, an unfamiliar sight took place as a goal post was brought down, and Pettibone was happy with what he saw.

“I thought it was great. I couldn’t figure out what was going on down in the corner; I thought there was a fight,” said Pettibone, in referring to the fans gathering at the end zone toward the end of the game. “That was exciting, the students were there, they were into the game, they were excited and it was really neat to see them pour out on the field. That is what college football is all about.”