NIU-Ohio notebook

DeKALB -- The comeback kids did it again. For the fifth straight time this season, NIU was forced to come from behind to defeat its opponent. After trailing 23-16 in the fourth quarter, NIU scored 14 unanswered points to take a 30-23 victory.

Just like it has done all season, NIU did not panic and responded in grand fashion and Ohio coach Brian Knorr could not believe what he saw after the game.

"I just left a very disappointed locker room," the Bobcat coach said. "What it shows is that there are 21 juniors or seniors in their top 24 players. What they've done winning late last year and repeating it this year, its a veteran team. At half, I came out and looked at their sideline. It was a calm sideline. Nobody panicked. Coach Novak has done a tremendous job."

Comeback victories is nothing new to the Huskies. Out of the 19 victories since 2001, 14 of them were come-from-behind. NIU claimed five comeback wins from its 6-5 2001 season, and had four wins in the 8-4 2002 season.

The biggest comeback for the Huskies came in the Miami, Ohio victory last season. After trailing 27-14 after three quarters, NIU scored 34 points in the fourth to win 48-41. The Huskies was also down 17-14 at Western Michigan last season, only to win 24-20.

"We've been here before," junior quarterback Josh Haldi said. "We were down in games last year and this year. It's just a mindset. The veterans know that a lot can change in a short amount of time. You just have to keep your cool and good things will happen."

This season brought comeback victories over Maryland, Tennesee Tech, Alabama, Iowa State and now Ohio. Can fans expect this the rest of the season?

"I hope not," Haldi said. "Winning yes, but we like to have it not as close. As long as we win."

NIU rolling: With the win over Ohio, the Huskies now have won 12 of their last 13 games, with the lone loss coming last season against Toledo. NIU also has won 17 of its last 22 games. NIU also broke a three-game losing skid against Ohio. The Bobcats defeated NIU 34-26 back in 1986, 35-30 in 1997 and 28-12 in 1998.

The win moves NIU up a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll from No. 17 to No. 16. The Huskies also move up from No. 20 to No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, and are one of 11 undefeated teams to be ranked.

Key play I: With Ohio leading by four, 13-9, in the third quarter, Haldi connected with Fleck for 42 yards to put NIU at the 6-yard line. Haldi connected with Brad Cieslak the next play to give NIU the 16-13 lead.

Sheldon done: Junoir receiver Dan Sheldon went down on the third play of the Huskies second drive of the game, dislocating and tearing ligaments in his elbow. Sheldon injured his elbow and had surgery on it Sunday. He will out for the season.

Key play II: After two straight incomplete passes late in the fourth quarter, Haldi and the Huskie offense found themselves in a third-and-10 situation on the Bobcats' 47 yard line. Haldi found Shatone Powers for 12 yards to keep the drive going. Haldi eventually scored the game-tying touchdown later in the drive.

New season bests: The Huskies broke 15 season-bests against Ohio. Michael Turner had the longest run of 24, breaking the old record of 21 against Alabama. Haldi's 46 attempts broke his best of 35 and the 26 completions were five better than what he had against Tennessee Tech. Haldi's 310 yards also betters the 266 yards he had against Maryland.

P.J. Fleck's 285 all-purpose yards broke Turner's 193 against TTU. The 14 rececptions and 234 yards by Fleck was one better than what he had against the Terapins. He finished with 116 yards on 13 catches.

Steve Azar's 12 kick-scoring points and three field goals broke the 8 points he had against TTU and two field goals against Maryland. Azar also broke the 300-point mark for his career.

Key play III: Haldi started the overtime session in grand style, connecting with Fleck for the fourteenth time. The Haldi-to-Fleck connection was good for 23 yards and put the Huskies on the 2 yard line. Haldi kept the ball three plays later to score the game-winning touchdown.


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