DEKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois Huskies moved into first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 27-24 victory over Toledo on Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium. With the victory, NIU improves to 8-2 overall, 5-1 in the MAC. Toledo suffered its first league loss to fall to 6-4 overall, 5-1 in league play.
The Rockets, who lost their first and second string quarterbacks before the game even started, finished the contest with Dwight Macon at the helm. The senior wide receiver had started his career as a quarterback. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 97 yards and two TDs.
Huskies senior tailback Cameron Stingily, meanwhile, made his mark on senior night. He scored a pair of touchdowns, the last on a two-yard run with 6:33 to play, to give the Huskies a 27-17 lead.
'We made the plays when we had to.' NIU head coach Rod Carey.
Stingily finished the game with 81 yards on 21 carries as the Huskies totaled 226 yards on 46 carries as a team. NIU registered 168 rushing yards in the second half.
“That’s a good defense, and in the first half I thought they got the better of us,” Carey said. “In the second half, we kept searching for the things that worked and we hit a few. Cameron is a guy that when we get him going, get him downhill, he can make plays.“
Hare finished the game 14-of-22 passing for 190 yards and a score as NIU earned its fifth consecutive victory over the Rockets.
‘We made the plays when we had to,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey, who saw the Rockets pull within three points on a three-yard touchdown run by Macon with 2:14 to play.
After Macon’s score, the Huskies’ Luke Eakes recovered Toledo’s onside kick attempt. NIU ran the clock down to 10 seconds before being forced to punt and the Rockets hook-and-lateral play came up well short.
Macon entered the game in an emergency quarterback role when first time starter Michael Julian went out with an injury. Logan Woodside, who had started the previous seven games for Toledo, was unable to play due to an injury suffered at Kent State a week ago. Kareem Hunt gained a game-best 119 yards on 18 carries for the Rockets.
NIU got on the scoreboard first as freshman Christian Hagan connected on a 37-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter. The field goal was the first of Hagan’s career.
After the Huskie defense forced Toledo into its third consecutive three-and-out to open the game, it took the NIU offense just two plays to go 65 yards for the first touchdown.
Following a one yard run by Stingily, Hare connected with senior wide receiver Da’Ron Brown for a 64-yard score. Brown caught a short pass from Hare, made one man miss near the line of scrimmage and then outraced everyone to the end zone as the Huskies took a 10-0 lead. Brown finished the game with three catches for a team-high 73 yards.
Toledo responded with an 11-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard field goal. The Rockets moved down to the NIU two-yard line, aided by a 39-yard pass from Julian to Alonzo Russell, but the Huskie defense held and Toledo settled for a Detmer field goal.
The Rockets tied the game with 5:22 to play in the second quarter when Macon came in at quarterback and found Corey Jones behind the Huskie defense for a 69-yard touchdown to tie the game, 10-10.
NIU regained the lead on the next drive as Hagan capped a 10-play, 73-yard drive with a 19-yard field goal. Hare connected with Turner for 39 yards to the Toledo two-yard line, but this time it was the Rockets holding the Huskies out of the end zone as Hagan’s short field goal gave NIU a three-point lead at the half.
The Huskies and Rockets traded punts to begin the second half before NIU took a 10-point lead on a 4-yard touchdown from Stingily. The big play of the drive was a 61-yard end around by Brown down to the Toledo 15-yard line. Three plays later Stingily scored as NIU took a 20-10 lead with 9:18 to play.
"I don't know that I've ever dealt with some of the things we dealt with (tonight)," UT head coach Matt Campbell.
"I don't know that I've ever dealt with some of the things we dealt with (tonight)," UT head coach Matt Campbell. "I couldn't be more proud of our kids. ... We fought for 60 minutes, but we just came up a little bit short."
Up next for NIU is a trip to Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, Nov. 18, to face the Ohio Bobcats. (8 p.m. ET). Toledo faces yet another big challenge Wednesday as it hosts area rival Bowling Green (8 p.m. ET).
(Courtesy NIU Athletics/MRO Edit)