Despite what NIU Head Coach Rod Carey called “a championship effort” by the NIU defense, the Huskies dropped their second game in a row, marking the first time since the 2011 season that NIU suffered back-to-back regular season losses.
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“We couldn’t get out of our way today offensively,” Carey said. “Defensively and special teams-wise, except for the blocked punt, it was a championship effort. We’re a 2-2 ballclub that needs to stop making errors. When you lose two in a row, you don’t feel good about anything, but I thought our defense played great the entire day. [Boston College] is a good defensive; give them credit, but there were plays to be made.”
Trailing 17-7 when the Huskie defense held Boston College to a 25-yard field goal following an 11-play, 58-yard drive in the fourth quarter, NIU found new life when junior Aregeros Turner returned the Boston College kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown. It was the first kickoff return touchdown for the Huskies since Tommylee Lewis had a 99-yard return versus Purdue on Sept. 28, 2013. Christian Hagan’s PAT brought the Huskies back within three 17-14, with 4:27 to play.
The Huskie defense answered the challenge again, holding BC to a three-and-out. NIU got the ball back on its 34 and advanced to the BC 35 before three straight incompletions ended the Huskie threat. Boston College was able to take two knees and claim the win to improve to 3-1.
“The kickoff return gave us a shot at the end of the game,” Carey said.
After a 7-7 first half tie, Boston College took a 14-7 lead with 1:07 to play in the third quarter on a 21-yard run by Jon Hilliman to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive. The drive came after Hagan missed a 29-yard field goal at the end of NIU’s best offensive drive of the game. NIU had driven from its 37 to the BC 12 before a pass on third and one went out of the end zone, preceding Hagan’s miss, his first of the year.
NIU tied the game late in the second quarter thanks to sophomore defensive back Shawun Lurry, who stepped in front of a Troy Flutie pass attempt and returned it 79 yards to the NIU four-yard line before he was tripped up. Three plays later, Joel Bouagnon went up the middle for the two-yard score with 2:57 to play in the half. Lurry’s interception was his fourth of the year and his return was the longest without scoring a touchdown in school history.
Boston College’s first score came on a 27-yard pass from Flutie to Chris Callinan, which was the Eagles’ first completion of the game. BC’s two quarterbacks combined to complete just five of 14 passes for 92 yards, and BC punted nine times in the game while converting seven of 19 third down tries. Boston College had the ball for 37:51 compared to just 22 minutes for the Huskies.
“They were in bad spots; they responded,” Carey said of his defense. “On the second touchdown, we had a misalignment but if we don’t have that, they probably don’t score there.”
NIU could not get anything going in the first quarter as the Huskies failed to record a first down, punted three times and lost a fumble. The NIU defense was up to the challenge, though, forcing five Boston College punts and not allowing the Eagles to complete a pass. The two teams combined for just 76 yards in the first half, with neither team converting a third down and just two total first downs.
Hare completed 11-of-25 passes for 81 yards, with six going to Tommylee Lewis. Joel Bouagnon carried the ball 16 times for 56 yards for NIU.
The Huskies open Mid-American Conference play next Saturday at Central Michigan, the only MAC team to beat NIU last year. The game is set for 2 p.m. (CT) on ESPN3.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)