Sept. 26, 2009
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DeKALB - Northern Illinois scored the last 15 points in the final 11 minutes of the fourth quarter, but was unable to overcome an 18 point deficit in a 34-31 loss to Idaho, Saturday afternoon at Huskie Stadium.
"Offensively in a game like this, when you get down you have to change, and I think we did a good job fighting back offensively," said NIU head coach Jerry Kill. "But we had to get out of the game plan a little bit in the third and fourth quarter. You get out of a rhythm and it's hard to get back in there."
"Physically they took it to us. Physically, they are big up front, very strong up front, and physically, they've got anchors."
The Huskies (2-2, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) got within eight points with 5:51 left in the game on a one-yard touchdown rush and two-point conversion run by tailback Me'co Brown. Northern Illinois' Jordan Delegal blocked a Vandal punt and the ball rolled out of bounds at the Idaho one-yard line to set-up the score.
Idaho (3-1, 1-0 Western Athletic Conference) took over possession nursing a three-point lead, and ran the last 5:51 off the clock with an 11 play, 68-yard drive. Idaho saw third down only twice on the possession, including a key 3rd-and-three that the Vandals converted with a 25-yard completion from quarterback Nathan Enderle to Eric Greenwood. Greenwood led Idaho's receiving corps with three catches for 67 yards.
The Huskies opened the game with a promising 12-play, 79-yard drive that saw NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish completed 4-of-5 passes and exploded for a 29-yard rush. The drive stalled on the Idaho six yard line, and Mike Salerno kicked his first of three made field goals on the day to give the Huskies a 3-0 lead with 6:03 left in the first quarter.
Enderle and the Vandal offense caught fire in the second quarter. The junior quarterback completed three touchdown passes to three different receivers, including a 58-yard catch and run for six by Princeton McCarty. The Huskies countered with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Harnish to Willie Clark and a last-second field goal by Salerno to head into the locker room trailing 21-13.
Idaho put more distance between themselves and NIU on its opening possession of the second half. Enderle guided the Vandals 76 yards in 7:01, a drive finished on a one-yard rush by tailback De'Maundray Woolridge. Northern Illinois nearly stopped the drive, when NIU safety Tracy Wilson picked off an Enderle pass in the endzone. The play was called back after a pass interference penalty against NIU, and the Vandals went up 28-13 two plays later with 7:01 left in the third quarter.
Salerno added a field goal for the Huskies four minutes later, but Idaho kicker Trey Farquhar countered with two field goals to open the fourth quarter. The scores put Northern Illinois at a 34-16 disadvantage with 11:30 remaining in the game.
Harnish carried the team downfield on the next drive, either rushing or passing on all nine plays of a 60-yard touchdown drive. The sophomore finished the possession with a four-yard completion to Landon Cox, one of Harnish's two touchdowns in the game. After a Salerno PAT, NIU trailed 34-23 with 8:25 on the clock.
The Huskie defense stepped up to match the NIU offense, forcing Idaho into a three-and-out, setting up Delegal's blocked punt and Brown's touchdown run.
Harnish finished the day with 184 yards through the air on 17-of-23 passing. He also led the Huskies' ground attack with 13 rushes for 77 yards. His counterpart Enderle went 18-of-23 throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
Huskie wideout Landon Cox had a career day, leading NIU with five catches for 53 yards. Brown caught three passes for 31 yards to go with his 12 rushes for 47 yards.
Northern Illinois will look to bounce back when the Huskies host Western Michigan, Oct. 3, for homecoming.