DeKALB — A 2-hour, 44-minute weather delay couldn’t slow the Huskies on Saturday in their 27-20 win against Eastern Michigan to open MAC play.
Here are five takeaways from the game.
Without Waylee, NIU rattles off big scoring drive
The Eagles scored their first touchdown in the third quarter, cutting the once-17 point NIU lead to 17-10. But the Huskies responded with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive without the services of running back Harrison Waylee.
Waylee left the game after taking a big hit at the end of a long run in the second quarter and never returned. His status was unknown immediately after the game.
But true freshman Antario Brown picked up the slack, running for 42 yards on seven carries on the drive. Clint Ratkovich finished the drive with a 2-yard run to push the NIU lead to 24-10 with 5:18 left.
Defense sets the tone early
The Eagles went three and out on their first drive. On the next drive, Lance Deveaux crashed through the Eastern line and got to Ben Bryant, sacking him and causing a fumble. Ray Thomas recovered for the Huskies.
Eight plays and 34 yards later, the Huskies were in the end zone courtesy of a Rocky Lombardi touchdown run for NIU’s first points of the game.
Delay doesn’t equal rust for NIU
Even with a nearly 3-hour delay due to lightning in between the first and second quarters, the NIU defense came out just as hot.
On the second play after the break, Dillon Thomas tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage and Jaden Dolphin caught it and returned it 59 yards for a score, pushing the lead to 17-0 just 50 seconds into the second quarter.
Making the Eagles lose their way
NIU finished with six tackles for a loss, including five sacks of Bryant.
James Ester, Deveaux, Thomas (with two) and Devonte O’Malley had sacks, while Nick Rattin stuffed a running back in the backfield.
The second of Thomas’ sacks came in the fourth quarter, setting up a third and long after Eastern had driven into NIU territory down 24-17. The Eagles ended up turning it over on downs.
Icing on the cake
Eastern scored a touchdown later to get within 24-17. The teams traded scoreless drives, with NIU holding on a fourth and 7 from the NIU 35 with 10:15 left.