Sept. 21, 2013
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DEKALB, Ill. -- After trailing 20-0 midway through the first quarter, Northern Illinois came back to earn a 43-39 victory over Eastern Illinois in front of a sellout crowd of 23,595 Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
Senior quarterback Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) threw for 235 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 189 yards. Running back Cameron Stingily (Romeoville, Ill./Romeoville) added a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
"It's a win, [but] we've got a lot of improvement to do," said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. "It was a lot like the Idaho game [last week]. I didn't think we came out quite ready, but this team responds."
A 10-yard touchdown pass from EIU's Jimmy Garoppolo to Erik Lora with 9:53 to go in the fourth quarter gave Eastern Illinois a 39-36 lead, its first lead of the second half. Garoppolo threw six touchdown passes in the contest while going 34-of-49 for 450 yards. Lora caught 14 passes for 198 yards, including three scores.
"He is the best quarterback we've played," Carey said. "He's going to be playing on Sundays. He's legit."
NIU answered Eastern Illinois' score on the ensuing drive, going 62 yards in four plays, all on the ground, to retake the lead. Stingily's 46-yard carry on the second play of the drive helped setup an eight-yard Keith Harris Jr. (Chicago, Ill./Leo) touchdown two plays later.
After forcing Eastern Illinois to punt, Northern Illinois got the ball back with 5:04 left and ran out the clock with its longest drive of the game. Facing third-and-11, Lynch found redshirt junior tight end Luke Eakes (St. Marys, Kan./St. Marys) for 21 yards and a first down, a play that allowed the Huskies to take a knee and claim their 22nd consecutive victory at Huskie Stadium.
"I was pleased with how we ended the game," Carey said. "We got the ball with five minutes left, handed the ball off and got first downs."
Eastern Illinois jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first seven-and-a-half minutes of the game. The Panthers took the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in nine plays, capped by a 14-yard pass from Garoppolo to Lora for the score. EIU failed to convert a two-point try.
The Panthers caught the Huskies by surprise with an onside kick and recovered to maintain possession. On the first play of the drive, Garoppolo found Adam Drake for 43 yards to give EIU a 13-0 lead before the Huskies had the ball on offense. Drake finished the game with eight catches for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Following a three-and-out by the Huskie offense, Eastern Illinois increased its lead to 20-0 with a nine-play, 64-yard drive. Garoppolo hit Keiondre Gober from 13 yards out as EIU led 20-0 with 7:36 to play in the first quarter.
Northern Illinois responded on its next drive, going 60 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Stingily finished off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run, the extra point was missed as the Huskies trimmed the EIU lead to 20-6.
With the Panthers driving into Huskie territory, sophomore defensive back Marlon Moore (Mobile, Ala./C.F. Vigor) picked off a Garoppolo pass at the 16-yard line.
After a penalty moved the Huskies back to their own four to begin the drive, NIU marched 96 yards in just eight plays to trim the Panther lead to seven, 20-13, a minute into the second quarter. Lynch went 4-of-5 through the air on the drive, which was capped by another Stingily five-yard touchdown run.
Still leading by seven, EIU attempted a fake punt in its own territory, but the Panthers fumbled on the play and turned the ball back over to NIU at the Panther 39-yard line.
A spectacular 32-yard run by Lynch on the first play of the drive set up NIU with first-and-goal and Lynch hit Eakes on the next play from three yards out as the Huskies evened the contest, 20-20.
NIU took the lead just before halftime as senior kicker Mathew Sims (Hannibal, Mo./Hannibal) converted an 18-yard field goal attempt to give NIU a 23-20 lead with five seconds left in the first half. Sims' field goal finished a drive that went 14 plays and 82 yards for the Huskies.
After the halftime intermission, NIU increased its lead to 10 on a nine-yard touchdown run by Harris Jr., with 10:17 to play in the third quarter.
Eastern Illinois answered on the next drive with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Lora, cutting the NIU lead to four, 30-26, after a bad snap on the extra point attempt.
The Huskies marched back down to the Eastern Illinois one-yard line before a penalty helped stall the NIU drive and the Huskies were forced to settle for a field goal to push the lead back to seven, 33-26, with 2:50 to play in the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Garoppolo hooked up with Drake from 15 yards out to even the score, 33-33.
Another Sims field goal put the Huskies back on top, 36-33, before Garoppolo's 10-yard touchdown pass to Lora gave EIU its first lead of the second half, 39-36.
Junior wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer) made a team-high nine catches for 82 yards while redshirt junior wide receiver Da'Ron Brown (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park) had a team-best 99 receiving yards on seven catches.
The Huskies will return to the road for the final non-conference game of the regular season next Saturday, Sept. 28, when they travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on Purdue. Game time against the Boilermakers is scheduled for 11 a.m., and will be televised on ESPN2.
-- NIU --