All in all, Anthony Maddie’s first career start for the Northern Illinois University Huskies went pretty well. The redshirt senior, who was listed as a wide receiver on NIU’s roster coming out of fall camp, got the starting nod under center Saturday versus Ball State for the Huskies in the annual “Battle for the Bronze Stalk” and led NIU to a 31-24 win, their first of 2016.
NIU improved to 1-4, 1-0 in the Mid-American Conference, with the win while Ball State fell to 3-2, 0-1.
Maddie (Plainfield, Ill./Aurora Christian HS) finished with 298 yards and two touchdowns on 26-of-41 passing, and 160 rushing yards on 14 carries with a 75-yard touchdown run. His 458 yards of total offense are the eighth-most in a single game at NIU, and the most for a Huskie quarterback since NIU great Jordan Lynch had 468 yards versus Ball State on November 13, 2013
“That was a lot of fun,” Maddie said. “Just getting the win feels good. The receivers were making big plays, the offensive line was protecting. It was a lot of people working together. [Wide receiver] Kenny [Golladay] made some great plays.”
Golladay, the 6-4, 213-pound senior from Chicago, was Maddie’s favorite target as he caught a career high 13 passes for 184 yards in the contest, including touchdowns of 14 and 22 yards. Senior tailback Joel Bouagnon (Aurora, Ill./Aurora Christian HS) ran for 153 yards on 21 carries in the game with 98 coming in the second half. He scored his first TD of the season on a two-yard run in the second quarter.
“We’re obviously happy,” said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. “We’re 1-0 in the conference, we ran the ball and that was the biggest key. We executed better overall. Maddie is a good player. He has complete control of our offense. We know he can run, he broke some tackles [on the touchdown run].”
Maddie scored NIU’s first touchdown of the game with 1:08 to play in the first quarter on a 75-yard touchdown run to snap a 3-3 tie and put the Huskies up 10-3. After a lane opened behind blocks by tackle Max Scharping and Bouagnon, he broke away from several Ball State defenders and outran the defensive backs to the end zone. The drive had started at the Ball State three-yard line.
Ball State tied the game at 10 just 45 seconds later on the first of three James Gilbert touchdown runs. Gilbert put the Cardinals ahead 17-10 early in the second quarter as BSU took advantage of a Golladay fumble that gave them the ball at the Huskie 44-yard line. Gilbert scored three plays later from three yards out.
NIU responded with a seven-play, 67-yard drive to tie the score at 17. Maddie hit Golladay for 26 yards and Christian Blake (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons HS) for 41 on the drive, then found Golladay on a slant for the touchdown.
The Huskies took the lead with 1:26 to play in the first half by mixing the rushing of Maddie and Bouagnon with completions to Blake, who caught five passes for 75 yards in the game. After a Maddie rush gained 19 yards to the Ball State 11, Golladay drew a pass interference call in the end zone and Bouagnon ran it in from two yards out on the next play.
The offensive shoot-out turned into a defensive struggle in the second half. The Huskie defense, which totaled a season-high five sacks, 12 tackles for loss and seven pass break-ups in the game, held Ball State to just 145 yards in the second half. Senior linebacker Sean Folliard (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge HS) recorded 17 tackles, 11 solo, with 2.5 for loss, a pass break-up and a sack. His 17 tackles were the most by an NIU player since Tyrone Clark made 17 stops versus Army in 2012.
“Our defense played great,” Maddie said. “They got a lot of big stops, the D was awesome today, unbelievable.”
After Gilbert’s second TD at 13:45 of the second quarter, Ball State scored just once the rest of the game – that on a three-yard Gilbert run that tied the score at 24 with 12:26 to play.
BSU’s final touchdown came after NIU’s third turnover of the game gave the Cardinals the ball on the NIU 43-yard line. Just prior to that, the Huskie defense had come through with a fourth-down stop when quarterback Riley Neal was forced into a hurried thrown by senior defensive lineman Mario Jones.
Under Maddie’s cool direction, the Huskie offense quickly broke the 24-24 fourth quarter tie. After Jordan Huff’s season-long 39-yard kickoff return gave NIU the ball on its 40, Bouagnon picked up 28 yards on two rushes. Golladay caught a 10-yard pass on third and five, then made the 22-yard touchdown grab to give NIU the final lead.
From there, it was the NIU defense’s turn to shine once again. Ball State drove to the NIU 38 before Josh Corcoran (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South HS) collected his first career sack on third and five to stop a drive. Maddie’s pass to Golladay came up half a yard short on third and seven, and Ball State got the ball on its 50 with 5:56 to play.
Corcoran was there again for his second sack, Gilbert was stopped after a gain of four and Mayomi Olootu (Allen, Texas/Allen HS) broke up a pass to thwart the Cardinals.
From the NIU nine-yard line with 4:38 to play, the Huskies went to work with one final game-ending drive. Maddie hit Golladay to convert on third and six and Bouagnon rushed for 19 yards on third and two. He added a 15-yard rush one play later and Ball State could only watch as NIU finished the game in victory formation.
“We were in the huddle before that final drive and we just said to each other, how bad do you want to win?” Maddie said. “Everyone out there had a ton of confidence in one another.”