Huskies rely on passing game in second half

DeKALB -- NIU coach Joe Novak was forced to put a new wrinkle in his "East Coast Offense" Saturday.

With Ohio's defense putting eight, sometimes nine, defenders in the box, tailback Michael Turner struggled throughout majority of the first half. The senior finished with a season-low 43 yards and had one yard in the second half.

Enter Josh Haldi.

With the defense focusing on Turner, the senior quarterback turned in his best game of his career, shattering three career bests in the Huskies' 30-23 overtime victory over their Mid-American conference East Division foe.

Haldi finished with 310 yards on 26-46 throwing and threw for two touchdowns. The quarterback also ran in the game-winning touchdown in the overtime stanza.

"We'll do whatever it takes to win," Novak said. "Our coaches said that we couldn't run the ball. I said ‘Throw it.' (Ohio) dared us to pass. Whatever works."

Haldi was instrumental in the comeback victory, carrying the offensive load in the second half. After a 2-yard gain by Turner before the end of the second quarter, Haldi called his own number 22 consecutive plays until the 10:20 mark, giving Turner the ball for his only carry of the second half.

In the 22 plays, Haldi completed 10 passes out of the 18 he attempted and was sacked twice. Haldi ran the ball twice for seven yards.

Haldi threw the ball at senior wideout P.J. Fleck's direction seven times. Fleck, who shattered school records in yards (234) and receptions (14) caught five of the passes for 92 yards in that span.

However, Haldi saved his best for last. The senior, who said he was out of rhythm until the last drive in the second half. Needing to go 80 yards in the final 3:35 in regulation, the Ohio native completed his first four passes on the drive and went 8-for-12 for 80 yards.

Haldi continued to throw to his favorite target of the day, Fleck, and connected with him five more times for 52 of the 80 yards. With junior Dan Sheldon out for the season after a dislocated elbow, Haldi was forced to find new targets and got it in David McDermott and Shatone Powers.

McDermott caught two Haldi passes for 16 yards and Powers caught one pass for 12 yards.

"On that last drive, I felt the most comfortable," Haldi said. "Coach Novak said that we had been here before. It's a mindset. The veterans we have know that you just have to keep your cool."

But it was Haldi's last pass of the drive that helped send the game into overtime. Haldi connected with Fleck for the 13th time in the game for a 15 yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 23-all.

"I threw it up where I thought the defensive back couldn't make the play on it," Haldi said. "P.J. made a heck of a catch."

Fleck saw himself in a similar situation from the Maryland game. The senior wideout barely got his foot inbound, dragging his toe along the turf before reaching the sidelines on the left end zone.

"I kept telling coach if everything breaks down, keep throwing me the ball and I promise you that I will get open," Fleck said. "I had a lot of confidence in myself (Saturday)."

The magic did not stop there. At the start of overtime, Haldi hooked up with Fleck once again, this time for a 23 yard pass that brought the Huskies to the 2-yard line. Three plays later, Haldi scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard quarterback sneaker.

"Do we get overtime pay for this," Novak asked. "It was a great football game. What a great job Ohio did. Our team, we've done enough in the last two years and we believe. We have eight or 10 seniors and a lot of these guys stepped it up."

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