Johnson, NIU douse Flames’ rally

By Brian Wiencek

Liberty University was the last of three Division I-AA opponents on the Huskies’ schedule, and head coach Charlie Sadler couldn’t be happier as NIU managed to escape the Flames unscathed 27-21 in front of a crowd of 12,105 at Huskie Stadium Saturday.

LeShon Johnson had another career day topping his 188-yard performance two weeks ago against Southern Mississippi. His 192 yards on 28 carries tied him for the 17th best rushing performance in NIU history.

“I wish he didn’t play today,” said Liberty head coach Sam Rutigliano. “I think he could play at the next level. He’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got acceleration, and he’s got power. He’ll cause you to miss. I think he can play.”

UCLA transfer Brian Steger had another great game as well. For the second straight game, he kicked multiple field goals and put himself in the NIU record books. He went 2-for-2 with his longest coming from 46 yards out. That tied him with John Ivanic for the fourth longest field goal in NIU history. Steger is now 9-for-11 on the year for field goals and 16-for-19 on extra points.

“Another guy who is very, very important to us is Brian Steger,” Sadler said. “Hitting those field goals put us in a situation where they had to score a touchdown to win the game.”

NIU and Liberty exchanged turnovers—four in the first half. Finally, early in the second quarter, the Huskies struck on a three-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Scott Crabtree.

NIU came right back three minutes later with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Crabtree to tight end Raymond Roberts.

Still in the second quarter, Crabtree threw to Roberts again for the touchdown. The 11-yard pass play upped the score to 21-0 at the half. It was the first time that the Huskies had scored 21 points in one quarter since their 49-7 victory over Murray State in 1990.

Liberty came back in the third quarter with a fake field goal that was good for a 21-yard touchdown pass from Travis Wilemon to Dwayne Carsell, cutting the deficit to 21-7.

After the first of two Steger field goals, Liberty struck once more with a one-yard touchdown run from Robbie Justino.

Steger upped the score to 27-14, but the Flames made the most of their possessions as they scored on a two-yard touchdown pass from Justino to Maurice Jones.

The Huskies tried to run out the clock, but were forced to punt with just over a minute left to play in the game. However, Justino threw into the hands of linebacker Tony Smith to end the game.