On a rainy, windy day at Huskie Stadium, the Northern Illinois University Huskies relied on a dominating defensive performance to earn a 24-3 Mid-American Conference victory over Kent State.
The Huskies (3-2, 1-0 MAC) allowed the Golden Flashes (1-5, 0-2 MAC) to earn just 131 yards in the game, 102 rushing and 29 passing, while giving up only nine first downs. Kent State converted just two-of-16 first downs a week after NIU held San Diego State to just one-of-14 conversions.
Shawun Lurry, Jawuan Johnson and Bobby Jones IV intercepted passes in the game. Johnson led the Huskies with 12 tackles, two for loss, while Sutton Smith had a career high 10 tackles with three sacks and four tackles for loss. The Huskies totaled six sacks, the most by an NIU defense since the 2013 season.
“I thought our defense did a great job of harassing the quarterback and not allowing them to get anything established,” said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. “Our defense had complete control over that game and it was an outstanding performance by them. We played with great effort and great energy. Some execution things we need to do better. We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game and it was a four-quarter game.”
Neither team started well offensively as the game started with four punts. NIU then inserted redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers, who directed a 12-play, 80-yard drive to give the Huskies all the points they would need in the game. Childers ran for 42 yards on the drive, including a 28-yard rush, and hit Spencer Tears with a 10-yard touchdown pass, the first of his Huskie career. Christian Hagan’s PAT gave NIU a 7-0 lead with two minutes to play in the first quarter.
Kent State scored its only points with a 10-play, 89-yard drive, culminating in a Shane Hynes 18-yard field goal. The Golden Flashes had first and goal from the seven yard line but fell inches short on a third and two play, forcing KSU into the field goal try.
Lurry’s interception set up the Huskies’ second touchdown and came after Kent State recovered a pooched kickoff at the NIU 19. On third and goal from the 17, KSU quarterback Dustin Crum was pressured and Lurry stepped in front of his pass and returned it 45 yards, setting up the Huskies in Kent State territory.
With 3:55 to play in the half, NIU drove to the Kent 25 and from there, Childers hit tight end Shane Wimann who scored his 13th career touchdown. The Huskies led 14-3 at halftime.
A turnover also led to NIU’s third touchdown when Matt Ference’s punt was muffed by the Kent State returner and recovered by the Huskies’ Alex Schwab at the Kent State 11-yard line. Three plays later, Childers hit Huff with a two-yard touchdown pass to extend NIU’s lead to 21-3 with 10:34 to play in the third quarter.
Hagan added a 41-yard field goal with 4:48 left in the third quarter to complete the scoring.
Childers, who came on to relieve starter Daniel Santacaterina, completed 13-of-21 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns while netting 65 yards rushing on 17 carries to lead the Huskies’ rushing attack. Wimann caught four passes for 53 yards to lead all receivers. Jordan Huff ran 18 times for 58 yards.
“We have to stop turning the ball over on offense and when we stop, things will get easier for us,” Carey said. “We put in Marcus because it was hard to throw it and catch it with the rain coming down sideways. He took us down and got that first touchdown, Santacaterina came back in and made a mistake, so we decided to go with Marcus from there. Right now, I don’t know any more going forward. I have great confidence in both guys.”
NIU heads back on the road for its next two contests before returning home to play Eastern Michigan on Thursday, October 26.