The Northern Illinois University Huskies used a 23-point second half offensive outburst and an unrelenting defense to defeat in-state foe Northwestern, 23-15, Saturday at Ryan Field in Evanston. The Huskies won their third consecutive game over a Big Ten Conference opponent after recording wins over Iowa and Purdue a year ago, and claimed their first win in eight tries over the Wildcats.
NIU improved to 2-0 on the season and has won 25 consecutive regular season games. The Huskies lead the nation with 16 consecutive wins in true road games dating back to Oct. 1, 2011. NIU is now 5-3 versus Big Ten teams since 2009.
"I'm so happy for these guys and this group of seniors," said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey following the win. "I'm so proud of them I can barely stand it. Are we a finished product? No. We've got a lot to clean up, but we made enough key plays at key moments to get this win."
Drew Hare, the third quarterback to play in the game for NIU, sparked the Huskies to three second half touchdowns and was responsible for all of the team's scoring drives. The sophomore from O'Fallon, Mo. (Fort Zumwalt West HS) completed six-of-10 passes for 109 yards and two scores and ran for another touchdown. He hit senior receiver Da'Ron Brown (Chicago/Morgan Park HS) with scoring passes of 18 and 59 yards and scored on a four-yard run.
Brown finished the game with six catches for 128 yards to post his second career 100-yard receiving day. Senior Akeem Daniels rushed for 81 yards on 16 carries to power a Huskie rushing attack that totaled 221 yards on 55 carries by seven different players.
The Huskie defense shut out Northwestern in the first half as the teams played to a 0-0 tie. NIU got a spectacular interception in the end zone from junior cornerback Paris Logan (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge HS) to thwart one Wildcat drive and forced five punts in the half.
NIU was unable to get anything going on offense, either, until sophomore Anthony Maddie relieved starter Matt McIntosh at quarterback and led the Huskies on a 14-play, 72-yard drive to the NIU eight-yard line. From there, kicker Tyler Wedel missed a 25-yard field goal with 3:55 to play before halftime.
Hare took over to start the third quarter and led NIU on a 10-play, 60-yard drive to the Wildcat 15, where Wedel's field goal attempt from 32-yards was good for the first score of the game.
Northwestern responded to the Huskies' score with a four-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Siemian to Kyle Prater and gave the Wildcats their only lead of the game at 7-3 with 4:51 to play in the third quarter.
From there, the Huskie defense proceeded to make life miserable for Northwestern, and especially the Wildcat quarterbacks. NIU recorded three of its five sacks in the second half and Northwestern finished the half with zero (0) net yards rushing on 12 carries for the half. The Wildcats were also penalized for holding several times in the final half while trying to control the NIU defenders. Linebacker Rasheen Lemon and defensive end Jason Meehan each collected a pair of sacks in the game, NIU broke up six passes and forced three fumbles.
NIU took the lead for good with 52 seconds to play in the third quarter when Hare hit Brown from 18 yards out to complete a 13-play, 82-yard drive. Two possessions later, Hare hit Brown with a 59-yard laser to the end zone to give NIU a 16-7 lead (after the PAT was blocked).
After the NIU defense forced a Northwestern three-and-out, Chad Beebe's 36-yard punt return set up NIU on the NU 22. Four plays later, Hare ran it in from four yards out and Wedel's PAT made it 23-7 with 3:27 to play.
Northwestern got a late touchdown pass and two-point conversion after a roughing the passer penalty kept their drive alive. Brown recovered Northwestern's onside kick attempt and NIU ran out the clock for the win.
Northwestern fell to 0-2 with the loss.