The Northern Illinois University Huskies continued its recent string of success versus Big Ten opponents with a fourth-quarter rally to defeat the University of Nebraska, 21-17 Saturday in front of 89,664 fans at Memorial Stadium.
After NIU scored the first 14 points of the game on interception return touchdowns, Nebraska put 17 straight points on the board in the second half before NIU responded with a game-winning drive, followed by two defensive stops in the final six minutes of the game.
The win was NIU’s sixth in its last 10 games versus Big Ten opponents since 2009 and the fourth in five games under Head Coach Rod Carey.
After Nebraska took its only lead of the game with 11:14 left in the game on a one-yard dive by quarterback Tanner Lee to cap a 17-0 run by the Huskers in the second half, the Huskie offense responded.
From the Huskie 25, sophomore quarterback Daniel Santacaterina came out firing, hitting Christian Blake with a 47-yard bomb to put NIU on the Nebraska 28 yard line. Two Jordan Huff runs netted another first down and a Santacaterina to Blake connection over the middle went to the two-yard line. Huff scored from there, putting the Huskies back on top to stay, 21-17.
Nebraska got two more chances with the ball, advancing to the NIU 33 on the first drive before the Huskie defense – as it had almost all day - stood strong with Mycial Allen defending the fourth and seven attempt and linebacker Kyle Pugh providing pressure. Nebraska got the ball again with 3:09 left after NIU’s offense took two-and-a-half minutes off the clock. On third and six from its 24, Sutton Smith sacked Lee for eight yards, forcing a fourth and 14 play. Defensive end Josh Corcoran ended all suspense when he intercepted Lee at the 24-yard line.
NIU’s Shawun Lurry shocked and silenced the crowd early when he stepped in front of a Cornhusker pass at the 13 yard line and returned it 87 yards for a 7-0 Huskie lead at 11:24 of the first quarter. Lurry’s play came after Nebraska had opened the game by driving from its 25-yard line to the Nebraska 17. The senior recorded his second career interception return for a touchdown.
The Huskie defense forced Nebraska into three and outs on its next two possessions, and although the NIU offense was unable to get untracked, the Huskies had the field position advantage, forcing the Huskers to start on their one and seven yard lines.
NIU took a 14-0 lead with 1:13 to play in the quarter. Facing third and nine from its 21-yard line, Drequan Brown pressured Lee, and his pass was intercepted by linebacker Jawuan Johnson, who raced 25 yards for the Huskies’ second touchdown.
Despite giving up 384 yards on 83 plays on the day, the Huskie defense pressured Lee all day, totaling three sacks and nine tackles for loss in the game, including four by defensive end Sutton Smith, giving him 10 already on the year.
Jordan Huff led the Huskie offense with 105 yards on 16 carries, while Santacaterina completed 15-of-22 passes for 128 yards. Blake caught five passes for 77 yards.
NIU enjoys an open date next week before returning to action Sept. 30 at San Diego State.