Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen . . .
The teams matched scores in the first two overtimes with neither team able to score in the first OT, and both teams scoring touchdowns in the second. NIU opened the first overtime with the ball and gave the ball to its primary workhorse on the night, Kenny Golladay, who ran the jet sweep to the two-yard line. After a penalty and another Golladay rush, quarterback Drew Hare fumbled the snap and Wyoming recovered. The Huskie defense stood firm, though, forcing a 37-yard field goal try which Cowboys kicker Cooper Rothe pushed wide right.
In the second overtime, both teams rebounded to score touchdowns. Wyoming, which led off the period, got into the end zone on a five-yard rush by Bryan Hill, who led the Cowboys’ rushing attack all night. NIU responded. After Hare hit Golladay for 16 yards and Joel Bouagnon rushed for six to the one, the Huskie quarterback scored on a sneak and Hagan’s PAT set up the third overtime.
“We made too many mistakes to win the football game,” said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. “The kids played hard, but there were mistakes by the players and the coaches, we all need to get better. That was a good football team, give Wyoming credit. We knew it was going to be a fight.”
The overtime theatrics overshadowed a spectacular and determined performance by Huskie senior receiver Kenny Golladay. He provided most of the Huskie offense on the night, and kept NIU in the game through the first three-plus quarters. Golladay scored NIU’s first three touchdowns – on a 39-yard reception, a 34-yard rush and a 27-yard catch and run. He finished with six rushes for 82 yards and 10 catches for 144 yards to account for 226 all-purpose yards and lead NIU in both rushing and receiving.
“We knew we had a mismatch [with Golladay] and we kept going to it,” Carey said. “He’s a special player, maybe one of the best [receivers] to come through here in the end. He did what we expected him to do.”
Hare completed 24-of-39 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns. His night included directing the Huskies on a two-minute scoring drive in the final three minutes of the game to tie the score at 27, which would eventually send the game to overtime. On that drive, NIU got the ball with 3:12 to play on its own 23. After a sack knocked NIU back to their 13, Hare hit Shane Wimann for 22 yards to the 35. Three incompletions had NIU facing fourth and 10 when Hare completed a 10-yard route to Bouagnon, an eight-yard pass to Christian Blake and an 11-yarder to Golladay. Blake’s 17-yard catch put NIU at the Wyoming 19 and then it was Hare to a wide-open Shane Wimann for the tying score.
Wyoming got the ball back with 1:13 on the clock and drove from its 17-yard line to the NIU 31. Rothe booted the first field goal just as NIU called timeout and the ball was ruled dead. After the timeout, he missed the next attempt at the 48-yarder wide right.
Prior to that, Wyoming had taken a 27-20 lead with 1:39 to play in the third quarter on a two-yard pass from Allen to Jonathan Hollister. The 10-play, 80-yard drive took 5:24 off the clock.
Earlier in the quarter, the teams had traded touchdowns with Wyoming taking a 20-13 lead on a 17-yard pass from Allen to Tanner Gentry. NIU responded on its very next possession with Hare hitting Golladay for his third TD of the game with 7:03 to play.
Hill ran for 125 yards on 33 carries and scored two rushing TDs for Wyoming while a pair of UW receivers went over the 100-yard mark in receiving.
NIU was led defensively by Mycial Allen, who had a career-best 13 tackles. The two teams were called for a combined 22 penalties for 206 yards, including 12 on NIU.
The first half ended in a 13-13 tie as NIU had the best of play through the first quarter before Wyoming got its offense untracked in the second.
NIU took a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game. Two plays after NIU’s drive was extended by a Wyoming personal foul on punter Jake Ambrose, Hare hit Golladay for 39 yards and a touchdown. The Huskie receiver made the play despite being interfered with, and Hagan hit the PAT. The 10-play, 81-yard drive took 4:11.
On Wyoming’s next possession, it appeared NIU had made a big play when Renard Cheren stepped in front of a Josh Allen pass and returned it to the Cowboys 13. But NIU was called for defensive holding on the play and the interception was negated. The Huskies did force a punt, which was downed at the NIU three-yard line.
Facing difficult field position, the Huskies used three Huff runs to get a first down before the drive stalled and Ambrose punted. Wyoming advanced from NIU’s 48 to its 18 before the Huskie defense forced a 35-yard field goal attempt by kicker Rothe.
On the last play of the quarter, Hare found Christian Blake wide open on the right sideline and the speedy junior went 51 yards before he was tackled at the Wyoming 24. A holding penalty pushed the Huskies back to start the second quarter, before Golladay went untouched 34 yards on the end around for a NIU touchdown. Hagan’s PAT attempt missed left, giving NIU a 13-3 lead following the three-play, 75-yard drive.
Wyoming responded immediately, traveling 52 yards in six plays and 2:37 to pull within three points of the Huskies. After a defensive holding call on NIU on third down and seven, Austin Conway rushed for 22 yards to the NIU four and two plays later, Brian Hill scored from the two.
NIU went three and out on its next possession and Wyoming put together another drive from its 16 to the NIU 22, when the Huskies forced a 39-yard field goal by Rothe, tying the score at 13.
NIU drove from its 30 to the Wyoming 36 in the final minutes of the first half and set Hagan up for a 53 yard field goal attempt, which was no good.
The game was delayed from its original start time of 8:37 p.m. local time to 10:20 p.m. when bad weather sent the teams off the field just as pregame warm-ups began.
NIU (0-1) next travels to Tampa, Fla. to take on the University of South Florida Bulls (1-0). That game, which will be televised on the CBS Sports Network, kicks off at 6 pm CT.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)