TOLEDO — It was not for the faint of nerves, but Northern Illinois pulled off the upset Saturday at Toledo, using John Richardson’s field goal with 26 seconds to play to improve to 4-2 and 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference.
Northern Illinois plays the hits
The Huskies seem to relish beating Toledo as an underdog, don’t they? On its past six trips to the Glass Bowl, Northern Illinois has been favored a grand total of zero times. In those past six trips at Toledo, though, NIU is 5-1 against its Mid-American Conference West Division rival.
The Huskies went into Saturday’s date as a 13-point underdog, pulling off the biggest upset in the series since 2006.
During the past decade, NIU has won at Toledo as a touchdown-plus underdog four times.
When called upon, Lombardi made the big throw
It became apparent during the third quarter that Northern Illinois was not going to be able to ride its running game to a win, and it would need a big play or two from the passing game. When the time, Lombardi made his best throw of the day.
With the Huskies trailing 20-19 and the clock ticking away on their final possession of the day, Lombardi found Tyrice Richie in man coverage and delivered an inch-perfect over-the-shoulder throw for a 34-yard gain down to Toledo’s 9-yard line. The connection set up a 29-yard, game-winning field goal by Richardson.
For a half, NIU figured out its running game without Waylee
The Huskies were without Harrison Waylee, the MAC’s leading rusher, who sustained an injury in last week’s win against Eastern Michigan. Nonetheless, Northern Illinois found a nice blend of running options in the first half with Antario Brown, Rocky Lombardi and Jay Ducker, all of whom carried at least seven times for more than five yards per carry.
NIU’s rushing attack piled up 193 yards rushing on 29 first-half carries and took a 16-14 lead into the break.
The second half was a different story. NIU managed just 49 yards on 26 carries.
Plenty of chances, plenty of field goals.
Northern Illinois leaned on its power running game to pretty consistent success in the first half, and the Huskies crossed Toledo’s 30-yard line six times at the Glass Bowl, including all of their first five possessions. Those first five trips, however, yielded a meager nine points.
The first drive was sidetracked by a holding penalty, the second ruined with a false start inside the 1-yard line that led to a missed field goal attempt, and Lombardi threw an interception on the third.
After two more visits ended with field goals, the Rockets busted loose for a 75-yard touchdown on a screen pass to running back Bryant Koback that established a 14-9 lead.
Luckily for NIU, Brown’s 37-yard touchdown with 36 seconds to go in the second quarter regained the advantage before halftime.
Huskies overcome penalties
Northern Illinois was penalized eight times for 80 yards against Toledo, but it was the nature and timing of the infractions that had the Huskies kicking themselves.
A false start inside the Toledo 1-yard line turned a likely touchdown drive into a missed field goal attempt, a hold saddled the opening possession, and most crucially, an obvious pass interference on NIU with Toledo facing fourth-and-long deep in the fourth quarter extended the Rockets’ drive. Toledo scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on the next play.
Toledo committed two big fouls of its own on the next drive, though, helping NIU extend what became the game-winning field goal drive.
Source: The Daily Chronicle