Junior Kenny Golladay recorded his second consecutive 100-yard receiving day with eight catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Shane Wimann also had two touchdown catches for the Huskies.
NIU scored 37 of its 57 points in the second half as Hare and the Huskie offense caught fire.
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“We didn’t play a real good first half [offensively],” said NIU head coach Rod Carey. “I thought the defense played great all day. I’m really happy with how we came out in the second half and played. I wish we could get a faster start, but we’ll work on that. We responded at the right time and made some plays.”
After a lackluster start to the game that saw Murray State take a 7-6 lead after the first quarter on a six-yard pass from quarterback K.D. Humphries to Nick Taylor, the Huskies took the lead for good on a one-yard run by Joel Bouagnon with 13:48 to play in the first half. Bouagnon’s touchdown run, his first of two on the day, capped an eight-play, 65-yard drive. He finished with 15 carries for 52 yards and was one of four Huskies to rush for at least 49 yards on the day.
Murray State trimmed the lead back to just three, 13-10, using a 12-play drive to move inside the NIU 10, but the Racers were forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal with 9:58 left in the second quarter.
INTERCEPTION THWARTS RACERS
On its next possession, Murray State again moved deep into Huskie territory. On third and goal from the four-yard line, senior Paris Logan intercepted Humphries in the end zone to keep the Huskies in front.
Just before the half, NIU pushed its lead to 10 as Hare connected with Wimann for his second touchdown catch of the day, this one from three yards out. The Huskies needed just 1:01 to go 60 yards in eight plays to take a 20-10 lead into halftime. Hare went 6-of-7 on the drive, connecting with senior Desroy Maxwell twice for 21 yards and senior Juwan Brescacin twice for 22 yards.
“After we got the interception, we didn’t score, we punted,” Carey said. “Then we got a stop and came out and scored in the two-minute drill which was really good to see. I thought we ran that about as good as you can run it. In the second half, we scored in under a minute [on the opening drive] and that was a big momentum shift.”
NIU needed just three plays to find the end zone to open the second half. Hare found Golladay who outran the Murray State secondary for a 55-yard touchdown as the Huskies took a 26-10 lead early in the third quarter.
Two big pass plays helped Murray State answer with a touchdown of its own. Humphries found Jeremy Harness for 38 yards to push the Racers across midfield and on the next play Humphries connected with Janawski Davis for a 34-yard touchdown to cut the NIU lead to 26-16.
Hare connected with Golladay again for a touchdown as NIU took a 33-16 lead with 9:31 to play in the third quarter. The 33-yard touchdown pass capped a 73-yard drive that took eight plays and just 2:17.
PUNT RETURN SETS UP SCORE
The Huskies found the end zone on the ground when Bouagnon scored from six yards out, giving NIU a 40-16 lead with 4:17 to play in the third quarter. A 24-yard punt return from junior Chad Beebe gave the Huskies excellent field position at the Murray State 27 and the Huskies needed just four plays to push the lead to 24 points.
After a 26-yard Racer field goal trimmed the NIU advantage to 40-19, sophomore Jordan Huff scored on a 46-yard touchdown run as the Huskies increased the lead to 47-19 early in the fourth quarter.
Murray State scored for the final time on a 60-yard fumble return by Dylan Boone with just under seven minutes to play before sophomore Christian Hagan added a 43-yard field goal and sophomore Mayomi Olootu scored on a 42-yard interception return in the final minute to give the Huskies the 57-26 victory.
NIU will take to the road for the first time next Saturday as the Huskies travel to Columbus, Ohio, to visit the top-ranked, defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Game time is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CT (3 p.m. ET) and will be broadcast live on ABC.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)