DeKALB — NIU scored 27 straight points on Saturday against Maine, pulling away for a 41-14 win against the FCS Black Bears.
Here are five takeaways from the game.
NIU sets season-high in passing, total yards
The Huskies (2-2) finished with 574 yards, smashing the previous high of 477 set against Wyoming. Rocky Lombardi’s 282 passing yards were also a season-high, plus Lombardi had a season-best 122 yards on the ground with three scores.
Harrison Waylee also went over 100 yards rushing for the third time in four games this year. And Cole Tucker had 114 yards receiving, a season-best and 4 shy of a career-best set in 2019 against Ohio.
Feast or famine for the NIU defense
Maine entered averaging just over 20 points per game against FCS competition. The Huskies held Maine to 14, but did allow 290 yards of offense.
Maine had five full drives in the first half, three were three-and-outs, but the other two were 70-plius yard touchdown drives. NIU punter Matt Ference pinned Maine at its own 1, but the Black Bears went 99 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14.
The Huskies didn’t allow a touchdown in the second half and held Maine to 105 yards.
Big plays for Eric Rogers
While the defense was struggling, cornerback Eric Rogers made big plays all day for the NIU defense.
In the third quarter, he had a pass breakup on a first-and-goal throw in the end zone. Maine ended up missing a field goal try, preserving a 10-point lead for the Huskies.
Earlier in the third, Rogers stuffed Freddie Brock on a third-and-2, forcing an NIU punt. And on a third-and-5 in the first half, Rogers brought down Shawn Bowman after a reception for a gain of four, forcing a punt.
Rogers finished with four tackles and one breakup.
Lombardi turnovers keep lead from growing
A pair of turnovers by Lombardi let Maine hang around in the contest.
The Huskies were poised for their first two-score lead of the game before the half, facing a second-and-9 on the Maine 33 in the final minute. But Richard Carr picked Lombardi and Maine ran out the clock, down 21-14.
Then in the third, with the Huskies up 24-14, Lombardi fumbled as the Huskies approached midfield and tried to open up a three-score lead for the first time. He also fumbled late in the fourth, recovered by Jay Ducker for the Huskies.
Long snapper with a special teams highlight
In the fourth with NIU up 34-14, the Huskies punted. Nick Rattin forced a fumble, and it was recovered by Erik Abrell, the team’s long snapper.
On the first play of the next drive, Lombardi went 33 yards for his third rushing touchdown.