Slow Start Derails NIU

Sports

Sophomore Ryan Graham (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) threw for three second half touchdowns but the Northern Illinois University Huskies (0-3) were unable to erase a 21-point halftime deficit as they fell, 42-28, to San Diego State (3-0) on Saturday afternoon at Huskie Stadium. Graham finished the afternoon 18-of-36 passing for 221 yards.

“Very, very disappointed in the outcome of the football game,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey. “With that being said, you have to give a ton of credit to SDSU. They’re a fantastic football team and today jumped on us early, though we fought back. We had our opportunities there, but in the end, we played a good team. They executed better than we did today. With that lead, that was the determining factor in the game.”

The Aztecs raced out to a 28-0 lead in the opening half before the Huskies cut into the deficit with 3:52 remaining in the first half. Senior Kenny Golladay (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita/North Dakota) finished the seven-play, 65-yard drive with a 12-yard run behind a convoy of blocker on the right side.

After the Huskie defense forced a San Diego State three-and-out on the first drive of the second half, it took NIU just two plays to go 54 yards, trimming the Aztec lead to 28-14. Junior Jordan Huff (Mobile, Ala./St. Paul’s Episcopal) rushed for five yards on the first play of the drive before Graham connected with Golladay from 49 yards out for the score.

Golladay had six catches for 80 yards in the contest and ran three times for 20 yards.  It was the second time in the Huskies’ three games that the senior recorded a touchdown rushing and receiving in the same game.

The NIU defense forced a second consecutive three-and-out and the offense cashed in again to cut the San Diego State lead to seven. Graham went three-for-three on the drive, including a 30-yard connection to Huff and a 14-yard touchdown completion to junior Shane Wimann (Wisconsin Dells, Wis./Wisconsin Dells) as the Huskies cut the Aztec lead to 28-21 with 7:46 to play in the third quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, tailback Donnel Pumphrey found the end zone from 33 yards out to give San Diego State a 35-21 lead.

NIU answered back with a 16-play, 65-yard drive, capped by Graham’s second touchdown connection to Wimann, this time from seven yards out. On a third-and-20 from the Aztec 40, Graham kept the drive alive with a 28-yard completion to junior Ezra Saffold (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer), his first of the year. Six plays later, Graham found Wimann for the score as NIU trimmed the San Diego State lead back to a touchdown, 35-28.

San Diego State needed just two plays to respond as Pumphrey scored his third touchdown of the day from 79 yards out, giving the Aztecs a 42-28 lead with 7:40 left to play. He finished the contest with 220 yards rushing on 23 carries along with the three touchdowns.

“When you play a good offense, a good back, a guy like that can make you pay [when you make a mistake],” Carey said.  “I loved the effort our guys played with today.  They put forward the effort the whole game and I’m super proud of that.”

The Huskies were unable to keep pace with the Aztecs scoring as Graham was intercepted on the following drive by Trey Lomax. NIU’s defense forced a punt, giving the offense another opportunity with 4:06 to play, the Huskies reached midfield before turning the ball over downs, to seal the San Diego State victory.

Junior Bobby Jones IV (Miami Gardens, Fla./Monsignor Pace) led the Huskie defense with 15 tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss. NIU finished the game with eight penalties for 103 yards while San Diego State was whistled for 11 penalties and 107 yards.

Pumphrey opened the scoring with a 46-yard scoring run around the left side to give San Diego State a 7-0 lead with 7:19 to play in the first quarter.

On the ensuing drive, the Huskies moved into Aztec territory but turned the ball over on downs after a fourth-and-one at the San Diego State 31. The Aztecs took over and used six plays to go 68 yards, capped by a 27-yard touchdown pass from Christian Chapman to Rashaad Penny.

Early in the second quarter, San Diego State added to its lead as Chapman connected with Kahale Warring for a touchdown on fourth-and-two from the NIU five, giving the Aztecs a 21-0 lead.

Chapman went 11-of-19 with 126 yards and three scores.

San Diego State scored again with 6:19 left before halftime as Chapman connected with Mikah Holder from 33 yards out as the Aztecs increased their lead to 28-0.

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