Santacaterina Shines In Huskies Win Over Eastern Illinois

NIU improves to 1-1 with 38-10 win at home.

DEKALB - The Northern Illinois University football team amassed 506 yards of total offense, while the defense held the Panthers to less than 200 yards as the Huskies claimed a 38-10 victory over Eastern Illinois at Huskie Stadium Saturday.

“I’m extremely pleased with the win,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey. “Our hard work that we put in as a team showed today in the outcome of a win. I was certainly pleased with that. Do we have a lot of things to clean up? Absolutely.

“Our defense played lights out, minus keeping themselves out on the field in situations where they could have gotten off the field and didn’t.”

Quarterback Daniel Santacaterina (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) led the Huskies on six scoring drives and threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns on 23-34 passing to lead the Huskies to their first win of the season as NIU improved to 1-1.

“Daniel [Santacaterina] ran our offense,” Carey said. “There are some things he likes doing better than Ryan [Graham] in the passing game, but the offense stayed the same. We have great confidence in both he and Ryan’s ability to run our offense.”

After a three and out on the opening drive, the Huskie sophomore led NIU on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive on the Huskies’ second possession. Santacaterina capped the drive by connecting with Spencer Tears, who made an incredible over-the-shoulder catch, on a 39-yard touchdown pass to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Eastern Illinois (1-1), responded with a 20-yard field goal by Nick Wilson, capitalizing on a muffed punt by the Huskies which gave the Panthers the ball on the NIU 29-yard line.

Following a three-and-out by the Huskies on their fourth possession, Mycial Allen (Detroit, Mich./King) intercepted a Mitch Kimble pass on the EIU 28 and returned it 17 yards to set up the Huskies’ second score of the game, a four-yard touchdown run by Marcus Jones, to extend NIU’s advantage to 14-3 with 14:51 left in the half and spark a 24-point second quarter outburst by the Huskies.

Santacaterina hit Christian Blake (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) for his second touchdown pass of the game on an 18-yard pass with 5:11 left in the half. A Mykelti Williams (Indianapolis, Ind./Notre Dame/Iowa Western) interception on EIU’s ensuing possession gave the Huskies a short field as NIU took over at the Panther 30-yard line. Jones scored his second touchdown of the game five plays later on a one-yard run to give NIU a 28-3 lead with 3:05 left in the half.

Jones finished the day with 63 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 12 carries and had one reception for eight yards.

After NIU used its timeouts and forced another EIU punt, the Huskies executed the two-minute drill, driving 55 yards in six plays and 1:20. Christian Hagan (Omaha, Neb./Westside) hit a 20-yard field with under a minute left and the Huskies went into the break with a 31-3 advantage.

The Huskie defense was dominant in the first half, limiting the Panthers to 58 yards of total offense while forcing two turnovers, which the Huskie offense turned into two touchdowns.

“We forced a couple of turnovers out there to give us some short fields and then got the ball into the end zone,” Carey said. “I thought we were really opportunistic on offense and obviously opportunistic on defense, and that really set the tone for the whole game. I think the way the defense rallied to the ball after the first drive and got themselves going, really set the tone for us all game.”

Santacaterina and the Huskies added one more touchdown late in the third quarter when he found tight end Shane Wimann (Wisconsin Dells, Wis./Wisconsin Dells) for a one-yard touchdown pass to give NIU a 38-3 lead.

Linebacker Jawuan Johnson (East St. Louis, Mo./New Boston [Texas]) quietly had a strong game for the Huskies, tallying seven tackles, including one-and-a-half tackles and a forced fumble. Antonio Jones-Davis (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach) led the way for NIU tallying a game-high eight tackles.

NIU returns to action Saturday Sept. 16 when the Huskies travel to Lincoln, Neb. to face Nebraska. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.

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