A disastrous third quarter for Northern Illinois was the story of the night in Dekalb as the Huskies fell to the University of Buffalo on Wednesday 49–30. Despite the loss, and the fact that only 400 of the athletes family members were able to be in attendance, we finally saw a beautiful, dry night. A rare occurrence during football season in Dekalb.
Although there was sunshine and warmer weather, it seemed like the ball was a little slippery in the third quarter when NIU turned the ball over three times, leading to a 21-point quarter for the Bulls. Until that point, this football game was a lot closer than the final score suggested.
A quick three and out from NIU on the first drive of the game set up an even quicker three-play touchdown drive from Buffalo to go up 7–0 early. Jarret Patterson was a name coming in that could be dangerous in this football game and he made his presence known early with two carries for 24 yards and a touchdown on the Bulls first drive.
The Huskies regrouped and put together a solid 14-play, seven minute drive that resulted in a field goal. Buffalo was able to finish the first quarter strong when quarterback Kyle Vantrease connected with stud receiver Antonio Nunn for a 17-yard touchdown. Nunn, who if you are a fan of group of five players getting drafted, is a guy who should get some attention from scouts going forward and he proved that Wednesday night. Don’t be surprised to see him on that “You got mossed” segment on ESPN. It was a hell of a catch.
Trailing 14–3 heading into the second quarter, the Huskies capitalized off a 15-yard Buffalo punt when Erin Collins scored on a six-yard touchdown run to pull the Huskies within four. Collins finished the night with 16 carries tallying 49 yards as well as the second quarter touchdown.
Jordan Hansen forced the first defensive turnover of the year when he made a spectacular diving interception of Kyle Vantrease’s pass, which unfortunately lead to a Huskies punt.
The Huskies two minute offense was put to the test after Jarret Patterson broke off a 54-yard touchdown run that put Buffalo back up by two scores. After leading the Huskies offense down the field, Ross Bowers connected with Dekalb native Cole Tucker for a 16-yard touchdown pass. The two point conversion attempt failed and the Bulls held a five point lead going into halftime.
Then the third quarter happened.
NIU’s defense forced Buffalo to punt on their first drive of the half and it seemed like the momentum was in the Huskies favor. After Bowers connected with freshman standout Trayvon Rudolph for 28 yards, Bowers lost the ball on a pump fake and the ball was scooped up and ran back 46 yards by Tim Terry.
Two plays and only a mere 45 seconds later, Erin Collins had the ball poked out and returned for a touchdown by Isaiah King.
Not long after the King touchdown, Vantrease found Nunn again for a 45-yard reception that set up a four-yard run from Vantrease. Antonio Nunn was the leading receiver for the Bulls with six receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Down 42–16 in the fourth quarter, Ross Bowers was intercepted by Kadofi Wright, who returned the interception for a touchdown, making it 49–16. The following drive saw Andrew Haidet take over at quarterback for NIU and Harrison Waylee get reps at running back. Haidet led the Huskies to a 15-play touchdown drive to make it 49–24 and, following a Buffalo punt, Rodney Thompson was able to score on a 13-yard touchdown run. However, that was not enough as the final score was 49–30 Buffalo over NIU.
Bowers finished the night 17-28, with 202 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Buffalo’s Kyle Vantrease, who was named the starter when Buffalo took the field on their first drive, went 11-17 for 175 yards and like Bowers, finished with a touchdown and an interception.
My takeaway from last night’s game is simple. Fix the mistakes. If you erase the three turnovers in the third quarter, we are talking about an entirely different football game. Is this football team young? Yes. However, Coach Hammock has these guys prepared and ready for anything. The Huskies showed fight at the end and I think that is something to look forward to in the remaining five games. Multiple players received chances to get meaningful reps and there were plenty of learning points.
Regardless, it’s week one. The Huskies have five more weeks to improve and get ready for a full season next year. Dont hop off the Huskies bandwagon just yet.
A very good Central Michigan team comes to Dekalb next week and, knowing the type of team this is and the type of coach that Coach Hammock is, the Huskies will be prepared to battle.
One positive on the offensive side of the ball was Tyrice Richie. Richie had a career night with nine receptions and 106 yards. Both are now career highs for the receiver. On the defensive side, Nick Rattin led the defense in tackles with ten.
For more NIU Huskies coverage, be sure to check out Huskies On Tap for coach and player interviews, recap discussions, and so much more! Huskies On Tap is available wherever you listen to podcasts.