TOLEDO, Ohio – (WTVO/WQRF) –Northern Illinois University junior kicker John Richardson kicked a 29-yard field goal, his fifth of the game, with 26 seconds to play, lifting NIU to a 22-20 win over Toledo Saturday at the Glass Bowl.
Richardson’s kick completed a game-winning drive that began on the NIU 29-yard line after Toledo had taken a 20-19 lead with 3:35 to play. After a pair of running plays gained five yards, tailback Jay Ducker gained 10 yards on two rushes to put NIU on its 44-yard line. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi then lofted a pass down the left sideline that Tyrice Richie brought in at the Toledo seven-yard line with 46 seconds to play and the Huskies forced Toledo to use its remaining timeouts with three running plays, setting Richardson up for his game-winning heroics.
The Brother Rice product’s final kick of the day tied the NIU school record for field goals in a game and marked the second time he kicked a game-winning field goal to beat the Rockets in the Glass Bowl (2019).
“Our players were resilient,” said NIU head coach Thomas Hammock, whose team improved to 4-2 overall, 2-0 in the MAC, with the win. “They kept playing together, and these are the types of games we want to play. We feel like we are mentally and physically tough enough to win these games.
“Offensively, our guys came out and were attacking, our offensive line was blocking well, the backs were running hard and then the quarterback run game really helps you out. That was a great defense we played today, and our guys stepped up to the challenge.”
NIU totaled 242 yards on 55 rushing attempts in the game with freshman Antario Brown carrying the ball 24 times for 93 yards and quarterback Lombardi adding 90 yards on 12 carries. Lombardi completed 14-of-24 passes for 154 yards, including eight for 98 yards to Richie.
The Huskies held the ball for 40:47, keeping the Toledo offense – and the Huskie defense – off the field. Two of Toledo’s three touchdowns came on long plays by running back Bryant Koback. He scored the Rockets’ first touchdown on a 40-yard run to give UT a 7-6 lead in the second quarter; after NIU took a 9-7 lead on a 43-yard Richardson field goal, Koback scored from 75 yards out after taking a short pass from quarterback Dequan Finn 2:25 before halftime.
With Toledo (3-3, 1-1 MAC) leading 14-9 and 2:25 to play in the first half, the Huskies executed a two-minute drive to perfection with Brown scoring his first career touchdown on a 37-yard run around the right side after Lombardi had completed passes of 18 and nine yards to Trayvon Rudolph and Richie, respectively. At halftime, NIU led 16-14 and had compiled 286 yards while running 44 plays to the Rockets’ 185 yards on 21 plays.
“I thought our defense played tremendous,” Hammock said. “Those coaches and players deserve a lot of credit. We gave up some big plays, but they stayed with it.”
Safety C. J. Brown made eight tackles to lead NIU and Nick Rattin had six, but it was consistent pressure by the Huskies’ defensive line and linebackers that made the difference as they forced Toledo quarterbacks into a 16-of-31 passing day.
Neither team put any points on the board in the third quarter; Toledo turned the ball over on downs on one drive and missed a 48-yard field goal on their next, while the Huskies punted twice in the quarter.
NIU extended its led to 19-14 in the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 35-yard drive that began after another fourth down stop as the Rockets were 0-for-3 on fourth downs in the game. NIU drove from its 36 to the Toledo 29 where Richardson made his longest field goal of the season, a 47-yarder with 6:19 to play.
Toledo took the kickoff and drove 75 yard in six plays to take its final lead, 20-19 on an 11-yard pass from Finn to Devin Maddox. Finn hit tight end Drew Rosi for 46 yards at the beginning of the drive and saw a 22-yard touchdown pass nullified by a penalty before a pass interference penalty on NIU on fourth down gave the Rockets another chance.
After the touchdown, Maddox’ two-point rush was stopped short, clearing the way for Richardson’s game-winner.
“We have tremendous confidence in John,” Hammock said. “Once we got the ball down there, we knew, OK, just get him in position to make the kick.”