With the win, NIU improved its season record to 6-2 overall, 3-1 in Mid-American Conference play, to become bowl eligible for the seventh straight season. The Huskies claimed their 12th consecutive MAC road win dating back to 2011. EMU fell to 2-6, 1-3 in the MAC, with the loss.
"Our team, we have our motto, the Hard Way, and that was hard today," said NIU head coach Rod Carey, who improved to 18-5 as the head coach at NIU. "We were doing the little things [wrong] and we had to reel it in. Our guys were making plays [late], we finally got pressure on the quarterback and after getting behind in the fourth quarter, I like the way we bounced back."
Eastern Michigan quarterback Reginald Bell ran for 133 yards on 25 carries, and running back Ryan Brumfield ran 18 times for 112 yards to account for most of the Eagles' offense. Bell completed 16-of-34 passes for 124 yards.
"Their quarterback is going to present a lot of problems for a long time in this league," Carey said. "The fourth down stop [we made] was big, and so was Dechane Durante's interception after we turned the ball over on downs."
After a scoreless third quarter, EMU's Bell ran for four yards and a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a 17-14 lead, their first of the game.
NIU responded immediately behind the running of Hare and Bouagnon. Hare also hit Da'Ron Brown for two of his team-leading four catches on the day. On third and three from the EMU 24-yard line, Bouagnon bounced off left tackle and cut down the sideline, picking up blocks from Cameron Stingily and receiver Juwan Brescacin along the way, to put NIU back ahead. After the extra point, NIU led 21-17 with 11:55 to play.
It was Eastern Michigan's turn to respond, and carries by Bell and Brumfield, as well as a nine-yard completion to David Gibson, advanced the Eagles to the NIU 37-yard line. On first down, Brumfield was stopped for no gain and a pair of incompletions brought up fourth down. Bell's attempt to hit Tyler Allen was off the mark and EMU turned the ball back over to the Huskies.
"That was big. We finally got pressure on the quarterback," Carey said. "I like the way we bounced back after they scored, and then the way our defense responded."
With 6:46 to play, NIU called on Stingily to carry the football, and the senior responded with runs of 13, seven and six yards to get NIU to the EMU 36. Bouagnon ran for three yards before Hare escaped on a nifty 32-yard run to the one-yard line. Stingily scored his second rushing TD of the game on the next play. Tyler Wedel added the point after and with 3:26 to play, NIU led 28-17.
EMU got the ball back and drove to the NIU 13 before a pair of incomplete passes brought up third and-13. The Huskies' Perez Ford and Michael Santacaterina then combined for NIU's fourth sack of the day, resulting in an 18-yard loss.
The two teams played to a 14-10 halftime score, with EMU hitting a late field goal following an eight-play, 59-yard drive.
Hare ran for 116 yards in the first quarter alone, but neither team could get any offensive rhythm in the second or third periods. The Huskies twice advanced into the red zone but came away without any points as Wedel field goal tries of 24 and 32 yards were blocked.
On its first drive of the third quarter, NIU was stopped on fourth and one from its own 45, but EMU could not capitalize as Durante intercepted Bell's long pass on the flea flicker on the next play.
NIU moves to a mid-week schedule of #MACtion on ESPN beginning with its next game. The Huskies play at Ball State on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. ET. Eastern Michigan begins its in-state MAC series next Saturday when it tangle with Central Michigan (1 p.m. ET).
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)