DEKALB, Ill. – Junior quarterback Drew Hare threw for a career-high 360 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-26 passing as NIU erased a 14-point second quarter deficit to defeat UNLV, 38-30, in the season opener on Saturday night at Huskie Stadium.
Hare’s 360 yards is the eighth-highest single-game yardage in Huskie history. Junior wide receiver Kenny Golladay caught nine passes for 213 yards, tied for the sixth-most yards in a game in NIU history, and junior tailback Joel Bouagnon recorded 21 carries for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
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After a 21-yard field goal from Nicolai Bornand gave UNLV a 17-3 with 4:18 to play in the second quarter, NIU cut the UNLV lead to just a touchdown on the ensuing drive. The Huskies went 75 yards in 11 plays, using just 2:46 off the clock, as Hare connected with sophomore tight end Shane Wimann on third-and-three from the 16-yard line for the score. That cut the Rebels lead to 17-10 with 1:38 left in the opening half.
The Huskies evened the game on the first drive of the second half, going 63 yards in just four plays to tie the game, 17-17. On the first play from scrimmage in the half, Hare connected with Golladay for 41 yards to the UNLV 22-yard line. Three plays later, Hare flipped a shovel pass to senior tight end Desroy Maxwell, who went 16 yards up the middle for the tying score.
UNLV moved right back in front on its first drive of the second half. A 33-yard field goal from Bornand gave the Rebels a 20-17 lead with 9:05 to play in the third quarter.
NIU answered and took its first lead of the night late in the third quarter. A 48-yard crossing route from Hare to Golladay was the big play in the drive, moving the Huskies to the UNLV 27-yard line. Two plays later, Bouagnon found the end zone from 16 yards out as the Huskies took a 24-20 lead with just 1:24 left in the third quarter.
The Rebels trimmed the Huskie advantage to just one, courtesy of a 51-yard field goal from Bornand early in the fourth quarter.
NIU responded with another touchdown drive, going 82 yards in six plays. Bouagnon went for 18 yards on the opening play for the drive. Hare connected with Golladay for 19 yards on the next play and for 48 more yards two plays later to give NIU first-and-goal. Bouagnon finished the drive with a score from a yard out to give NIU a 31-23 lead.
Golladay, playing his first game for NIU after transferring from North Dakota and sitting out the 2014 season, had six receptions for 170 yards in the second half.
“We thought we kind of had a mismatch there in the second half,” Carey said. “We decided to go to it a little bit more and Drew made the throws and Kenny made the catches. I think that was a huge part of being explosive and getting some things going. I was really proud of him and Drew putting the ball out there, and the protection as well.”
The NIU defense forced a punt and it took the Huskie offense just over a minute to move 65 yards in four plays to extend the lead. Hare connected with junior wide receiver Chad Beebe for 25 yards to move the Huskies across midfield and Bouagnon scored from 29 yards out as the Huskies took a 38-23 lead with 8:10 remaining. The touchdown was NIU’s fifth in six drives going back to the final drive of the first half.
UNLV cut the lead to one score when Blake Decker connected with Aaron Criswell from 41 yards out. The touchdown trimmed the Huskie advantage to 38-30 with 5:26 to play.
The Rebels forced a three-and-out from the Huskies and got the ball back with 3:17 to play and a chance to tie the game. Decker connected on a pair of third-and-longs to keep the drive alive and move across midfield, but after the two first downs the Rebels turned the ball over on downs and NIU hung on for the season opening win.
Senior linebacker Boomer Mays led the Huskie defense 13 tackles. Decker threw for 319 yards on 21-of-39 passing and a pair of touchdowns. Devonte Boyd had five catches for 107 yards to lead the Rebel receiving corps.
NIU will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 12, as the Huskies host Murray Stadium. Kickoff against the Racers is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)