“We only scored 10 points in the second half and that’s not enough,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said. “The defense battled hard. They missed some assignments, missed some tackles, and the offense needed to help keep them off the field with more drives in the second half.”
The victory was critical . . .
Hunt's game-winning touchdown came with 1:15 left in the contest, finishing off a nine-play, 71-yard drive that broke a 24-24 tie. The big play of the drive was a 39-yard completion from Woodside to sophomore wide receiver Jon'Vea Johnson to the NIU six-yard line.
The Huskies' attempt to tie the score was thwarted when redshirt freshman Aaron Covington picked off Ryan Graham's pass attempt at the UT 20-yard line with 33 seconds left.
NIU drew first blood in the contest, scoring on a one-yard TD pass from Ryan Graham to Shane Wimann in the waning moments of the first quarter. The drive was kept alive when Toledo was whistled for off-sides on a made 33-yard field attempt.
Toledo countered on its next possession with a 10-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Jameson Vest, trimming the lead to 7-3 early in the second quarter. But the Huskies came right back with another long drive, this time culminating in a four-yard TD pass from Graham to Kenny Golladay to give NIU its 14-3 halftime edge.
The Rockets came out firing in the second half, forcing NIU to punt after a three-and-out, then moving swiftly to score their first touchdown of the contest. Woodside connected with Roberts for a 27-yard touchdown, the sixth play in a 52-yard drive that cut the lead to 14-10.
Northern Illinois had an immediate answer, however, marching down the field on its next possession to push the score to 21-10. The Huskies used 14 plays, 11 on the ground, to eat up more than six minutes on the clock before Graham hit Christian Blake for a 19-yard TD. Woodside, however, came right back moments later, hitting Jon'Vea Johnson for a 37-yard score to cut the lead to 21-17 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
NIU held onto its four-point lead until Woodside hit Roberts again, this time from five yards out, to give the Rockets their first lead, 24-21, with 12:32 remaining in the game. The Huskies eventually evened the score with 4:31 left on the clock with a 22-yard field goal by Christian Hagen.
Toledo countered with a game-winning drive that ended on Hunt's TD and also ended Toledo's six-game drought vs. NIU.
“Give them credit, they are a good football team,” Carey said. “They made one more play than us. Our kids played hard; we know it’s going to be a four-quarter battle with Toledo every time. We needed one more play, and we didn’t do it.”
Toledo returns home next Wednesday to host Ball State at the Glass Bowl. Northern will be at Eastern Michigan on the same day.
(Courtesy of UT and NIU Athletics)