The Northern Illinois University Huskies piled up 374 yards of total offense and 35 points in the first half en route to a 49-21 Mid-American Conference victory over Eastern Michigan Saturday in the 109th Homecoming game in NIU history.
NIU powered out to a 35-0 halftime lead behind rushing scores from Joel Bouagnon and Jordan Huff and three Drew Hare touchdown passes while the Huskie defense held EMU to 11 first downs and three-of-nine on third down conversions before the break.
The win, NIU’s third consecutive, improved the Huskies’ record to 5-3 overall, 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference. Eastern Michigan lost its sixth consecutive game to fall to 1-7, 0-4 in the MAC.
“You never underestimate winning in any way, shape or form. It was a great first half in all phases minus the last punt in the first half. It was a really good performance,” Carey said. “The second half was a little sloppy but in key moments, we came up with stops.”
The Huskies opened the game with a 17-play, 70-yard drive that took 5:26 off the clock and ended with a four-yard pass from Hare to Juwan Brescacin as NIU took the early 7-0 lead. Later in the quarter, NIU doubled its lead when Hare hit tight end Shane Wimann from four yards out to conclude a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
NIU scored three times in the second period as Bouagnon (eight yards) and Huff (53 yards) sandwiched rushing touchdowns around an 18-yard Hare to Kenny Golladay hook-up. Bouagnon finished the game with 136 yards on 26 carries as he posted his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, and fifth of the season. Huff added a career-high 128 yards on 13 carries as he averaged 9.8 yards per carry thanks to his career-long 53-yard run.
Hare completed 24-of-38 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns in the game. Redshirt senior Tommylee Lewis led the Huskies in receiving with seven catches for 80 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the third quarter that came less than a minute after Eastern Michigan’s first score of the game.
With NIU ahead 42-7, Eastern Michigan used a pair of Darius Jackson touchdown runs to pull within three scores at 42-21. Juwaun Johnson’s first career interception stopped another EMU drive and the Huskies got a six-yard touchdown run from freshman tailback D.J. Brown to close out a 56-play drive to provide the final margin.“I was a little disappointed in the second half,” Carey said. “We didn’t come out with better attention to detail. I thought our attitude was right coming out of the half and I thought our effort was good, but our mind probably drifted a little bit and that causes you to drift on the fundamentals. Give them credit – they came out and made a couple adjustments and we had to counter back.”
NIU finished with a season-high 322 rushing yards on 59 carries and the Huskies converted 15-of-23 third downs.