DeKALB — The NIU football team knocked off Bowling Green on Saturday, 34-26.
The Huskies improved to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the MAC, while Bowling Green fell to 2-5 overall and 0-3 in conference play.
Here are the main takeaways from the game:
Passing on the pass
NIU ran the ball 59 times for 319 yards, and Rocky Lombardi only attempted eight passes - and only five in the first three quarters.
Lombardi’s fifth pass attempt was late in the third quarter, finding Trayvon Rudolph on a slant in the end zone for a 20-yard completion. It was only his third completion to that point, but it put NIU up 31-16 with 3:16 left in the third.
Jay Ducker led the ground attack with 33 carries and 210 yards. Mason Blakemore, in his collegiate debut, ran four times for 44 yards.
Defense plays big again early, slips late
Bowling Green entered the game averaging 234 passing yards per game, but the Huskies held it to 85 yards at the break.
Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald struggled to find open receivers, completing just 6-of-19 passes in the first half. But as the Falcons battled back from 34-16 down to make it a one-possession game, McDonald started to find more guys, finishing with 240 yards but completing just 16-of-41 passes.
Bowling Green had two late drives to try and tie the game, but the defense held both times.
Rudolph gets his big return
When NIU was looking to boost its lead in the second quarter, Trayvon Rudolph came through in a big way. He broke off a big return, going 100 yards to tie the school record and push the Huskies’ lead to 21-10 with 1:37 left in the first half.
Rudolph hadn’t returned a kick more than 35 yards this year before the touchdown. It was the first Huskie to return a kick for a score since Argeros Turner went 96 yards on a kick return against Buffalo in 2016.
It tied the school record for longest return, set by Tommylee Lewis in 2012.
Brown hurt early
Already down Harrison Waylee, who started the season as the starting running back, Antario Brown left the game in the first quarter after being upended on a run and losing a fumble, leading to the Falcons’ first touchdown and a 7-0 BG lead.
But Ducker became the fourth Huskie to reach the 100-yard rushing mark in a game this year, carrying for 102 in the first half alone. Blakemore also had his first carries of the year, the second of which was a 17-yard touchdown in the first half, giving NIU its first lead at 14-7.