The Northern Illinois University Huskies used a quick-strike offense and a solid all-around defensive performance to claim a 45-12 Mid-American Conference win over Miami Saturday at Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio.
The win improved NIU’s record to 4-3 on the season and 2-1 in the MAC while Miami fell to 1-6, 0-3. The Huskies have not lost a regular season game to a MAC East opponent in six seasons, since Nov. 21, 2009.
Although NIU gained a season-high 311 yards on the ground, six of NIU’s seven scoring drives Saturday lasted less than two minutes, with five of those taking less than one minute off the clock. Those five drives combined lasted just 3:16.
The Huskies scored five rushing touchdowns on the day, led by junior Joel Bouagnon (Aurora, Ill./Aurora Christian HS) who entered the game ranked fifth in the country in rushing scores and added three more on a pair of 22-yard TD runs in the first quarter and a career-long 53-yard rush in the third period. Bouagnon, NIU’s leading rusher on the season, went over the 100-yard mark for the third straight game and the fourth time in 2015 with 134 yards on just 14 carries. He averaged 9.6 yards per rush Saturday.
Sophomore Jordan Huff (Mobile, Ala./St. Paul’s Episcopal) added a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and with Huskie back-ups on the field late in the period, freshman Marcus Jones (Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice) found a crease and went 73 yards for the longest run of the season by an NIU back.
Quarterback Drew Hare (O’Fallon, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West HS) did his part to keep the Huskie offense humming as he completed 17-of-26 passes for 203 yards. His 32-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer HS) gave NIU a 14-0 lead at the nine-minute mark of the first quarter.
“Overall I was pretty pleased,” said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. “Drew was doing a good job, the running game got going with Joel and Jordan, and the defense gave up 10 points and the touchdown was after a fluke turnover on the punt. Overall, our pressure was good and the defense put our offense in good position.”
NIU scored three touchdowns in the first quarter to take an early 21-0 lead and never looked back. After traveling 75 yards on just six plays and 1:41 to score on its first possession on a Bouagnon 22-yard touchdown run, the Huskies took advantage of good field position for its next two drives. The Hare to Lewis touchdown concluded a four-play, 53-yard drive and after the Huskie defense did not let Miami capitalize on an NIU turnover, Hare and company used just two plays to go 47 yards for Bouagnon’s second 22-yard touchdown run of the night.
Miami got a 36-yard field goal from Kaleb Patterson at the 5:32 mark of the second quarter as NIU went into halftime with a 21-3 lead.The Huskies gave two points back on the second half kickoff when Aregeros Turner (Akron, Ohio/Copley HS) was ruled to have caught the kickoff out of the end zone and gone back in for a RedHawk safety. After the free kick, Miami drove to the NIU 16 yard line but quarterback Billy Bahl’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Shawun Lurry (West Palm Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer HS), who returned it 47 yards. On the next play, Bouagnon went off tackle and found the middle of the field empty en route to a 53-yard run and a 28-5 Huskie lead.
“It was good that Lurry got that pick in there,” Carey said. “It could have been a different game if they get that touchdown so it was good.”
Lurry’s interception was his seventh of the season; the sophomore has at least one interception in each of the Huskies’ last five games. He came into the game leading the country in both interceptions and interception return yards.
NIU got a 26-yard field goal from Christian Hagan (Omaha, Neb./Westside HS) on its next possession and scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter on run by Huff and Jones.
The Huskie defense recorded four sacks in the game, including two by defensive end Ladell Fleming (Chicago, Ill./Julian HS), while sophomore linebacker Bobby Jones (Miami Gardens, Fla./Monsignor Pace) led NIU in tackles with 13 in his first career start. Miami had the ball for nearly 40 minutes in the game (39:45) but earned only 17 first downs and were held to four-of-17 conversions on the day. NIU forced Miami into five “three-and-out” possessions.