NIU's Late Surge Comes Up Short in Overtime

DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois football team (5-5, 4-3 MAC) scored 24 unanswered points in just 16 minutes to force an overtime session, but the Huskies were outlasted by Central Michigan (8-2, 6-0 MAC), 33-30, in a foggy, single-overtime Mid-American Conference West Division battle at Huskie Stadium Wednesday night.

NIU dropped just its second-ever overtime decision, moving to 3-2 all-time in overtime contests.

CMU out-gained the Huskies, 430-368, but the Huskies racked up 288 passing yards. The Chippewas' ground game produced 241 rushing yards, and aided CMU's 28-19 advantage in first downs. Northern Illinois scored on all six of its red zone scoring chances, and successfully converted two onside kick attempts.

"With our special teams play and kicking game, we were able to get some momentum, and it helped us in the second half," said NIU head coach Jerry Kill. "We had to find a way to get back into the game, and sometimes as a coach, you are forced to create ways to try to get a win. We executed some things, and our kids never quit. You have to give credit to Central Michigan; they were more physical and a little stronger tonight.

"I'm disappointed, because our expectations were to win the game. We had an opportunity to get a win over a great team, and didn't finish the job. We have to continue to find ways to succeed in these types of game situations, and we will do that. We are going to head to Kent State next week with the same expectations."

CMU struck first, capping off an 11-play, 48-yard drive with a 33-yard field goal by kicker Andrew Aguila, with 8:31 remaining in the opening quarter. LeFevour was 4-of-5 on the drive, and spread the ball around to three different receivers.

The Chippewas began their third drive of the game with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter, and extended the lead to 10-0 at the 13:34 mark of the second period. LeFevour's 28-yard strike to Antonio Brown capped off a nine play, 89-yard drive that took nearly three minutes (2:59) off the clock.

CMU's offense was given a short field just 57 seconds later, after Harnish threw his fourth interception of the season. The Chippewas' Sam Williams reeled in the pass, and set-up CMU's offense at the Northern Illinois 38-yard line. Central Michigan running back Ontario Sneed found the end zone just two plays later, scrambling 27 yards for the touchdown, and 17-0 lead after the ensuing extra point.

NIU's Ricky Crider answered with a 75-yard kickoff return, setting up the Huskie offense at the Central Michigan 15-yard line. The Chippewas were also flagged for a personal foul on the play. NIU was forced to settle for a 44-yard field goal by Mike Salerno, trimming CMU's lead to 14 points, 17-3, with 10:12 remaining in the first half.

After converting one first down on the next drive, CMU's Paris Cotton fumbled the ball, and NIU's Melvin Rice secured the recovery. The Huskies took over at their own 33-yard line, but were forced to punt the ball away. Salerno punted the ball 48 yards into the CMU end zone, his first punt of the season.

The Chippewas took over with 7:29 remaining in the second half, and drove 80 yards in 11 plays to extend their advantage to 23-3. LeFeavor was 4-for-5 on the drive, and Bryant scrambled 27 yards on a reverse play. The ensuing extra point attempt collided off the right goal post and missed, keeping the CMU lead at 20 points, 23-3.

The Huskies opened the second-half with an onside kick by Salerno, and the Huskies recovered the ball at the NIU 31-yard line. Salerno capped off the 11-play, 40-yard drive with a 31-yard field goal with 10:14 remaining in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 23-6.

CMU countered with an 80-yard march, capped off by an eight-yard touchdown rush by LaFeavor. The score gave the Chippewas an eventual 29-6 lead, and accompanied 4:38.

The Huskies found the end zone for the first time in the game with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter, when Harnish scored on a two-yard run. The drive spanned 53 yards in 10 plays over 4:11. Despite being penalized with an illegal procedure on the next play, the Huskies still went for two, and Britt Davis made the conversion on a roll-out pass from Harnish.

NIU re-claimed possession, kicking and recovering its second onside kick of the second half, on the ensuing play. The Huskies turned the momentum into another touchdown, when running back Chad Spann capped off the six-play, 58-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run. NIU attempted another two-point conversion, but came up short, keeping CMU's lead at 10, 30-20.

Spann then pulled the Huskies within three points (30-27) with 7:38 remaining, after capping off an eight-play, 79-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown dash. The three-point deficit was the closest NIU had been since falling behind, 3-0, after the opening possession of the game.

Both teams were held scoreless for the next seven-plus minutes, before Salerno's third field goal with just 19 seconds remaining tied the game for the first time, 30-30. The Huskies went 72 yards in 13 plays, encompassing just over two minutes (2:05) to complete the comeback.

The Chippewas won the coin toss to begin the overtime session, and elected to defend. Harnish did not complete a pass on NIU's first drive, throwing an incomplete pass intended for Davis, and following it up with an interception by CMU's Josh Gordy at the CMU 2-yard line.

NIU's defense stood tall on CMU's only possession, allowing just two-net yards on the drive starting from the 25-yard line. But Aguila drilled a 40-yard field goal to end the game, and keep the Chippewas undefeated in conference play.

NIU will travel to Kent State next Tuesday (Nov. 18) for its third-consecutive mid-week game. The Golden Flashes (3-7, 2-4 MAC) outlasted Temple, 41-38, Wednesday in Kent, Ohio.

Final Stats

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