DeKALB – The NIU football team dropped its third straight game squandering a solid defensive performance in a 22-14 loss to Tulsa.
The Huskies (1-3) finished with 295 total yards of offense, while the defense allowed 288.
Here are five takeaways from the loss.
No chance to answer
Tulsa retook the lead with 8:33 left in the fourth quarter, marching over the NIU defense for 76 yards in just 3:01. Tahj Gary’s run went for 17 yards to cap the drive and put the Golden Hurricane up 19-14.
The bouncing grounder of a kickoff was picked up by Trayvon Rudolph at the 13, He returned it 21 yards but Jehien Cannady forced the fumble and Cam Crooks recovered it.
Tulsa tacked on a field goal to push the lead to 22-14 with 4:50 left.
The team traded punts, and the Huskies’ final drive got down to the Tulsa 30 before Ethan Hampton threw his second interception of the game.
Early in the first quarter, Rocky Lombardi took a big hit from Coelton Smith, who was called for targeting. Lombardi sat out the next two plays and returned for an incomplete pass. He came in on the next possession, lost control of the football on the second play of the drive, and Tulsa ended up with the safety.
Ethan Hampton ended up sparking the NIU offense, leading them on a 11-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 11:03. They converted twice on fourth down, including the touchdown pass to Trayvon Rudolph that cut the score to 9-7.
After the defense came up with a stop, Hampton - who had led the Huskies to touchdown drives the last two times he was on the field, leading a late touchdown drive against Nebraska - threw an interception on the first play of the drive.
Lombardi did come back later in the game as Justin Lynch, Lombardi and Hampton all alternated time under center.
Lynch for six
Down 9-7 in the third quarter, NIU started on the Tulsa 33 after forcing their third turnover of the day. Lynch started the series at quarterback for the second series in a row. His first run went for 4 yards, but on his second carry he found a seam and went 29 yards for a score.
The score gave the Huskies their first lead of the game at 14-9 with 5:34 left in the third quarter. It was the first time since the season opener against Boston College they scored more than one touchdown in a game.
Numbers in safety
After the NIU defense forced its second turnover of the game, the Huskies gave Tulsa the first points of the game.
Lombardi lost control of the ball and fumbled in the end zone. The Huskies recovered, but the Golden Hurricane had a safety and a 2-0 lead with 2:04 left in the first.
That sparked the Tulsa offense, which needed more than 8 minutes to get its first down. On the ensuing possession, the Golden Hurricane went 50 yards in eight plays to take a 9-0 lead.
Turnovers terrific, scoring off them not so much
On the second play of the game, a hard-hitting NIU defense broke up a pass from Cardell Williams to Braylin Presley. Ray Thomas picked it up and returned it for a score, but it was ruled incomplete.
The next two drives, however, the Huskies didn’t have to settle for almost turnovers. Nate Valcarcel picked off Williams, coming in from the middle of the field to make the grab at the sideline.
The Huskies missed a 26-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, the one on which Lombardi took the hit from Smith. Tulsa mounted a 12-play, 74-yard drive but Jordan Ford fumbled at the NIU 6, forced by Devin Lafayette and recovered by James Ester.
Muhammad Jammeh got in on the turnover party in the second half, intercepting Williams and setting up the Huskies to take the lead for the first time with 5:34 left in the third quarter.