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NIU wins with walk-off field goal after erasing halftime deficit

Huskies rally past Bobcats

NIU receiver Cole Tucker reaches out to make a catch against Ohio during Saturday’s game in Athens, Ohio. The Huskies rallied for a 39-36 win.
NIU receiver Cole Tucker reaches out to make a catch against Ohio during Saturday’s game in Athens, Ohio. The Huskies rallied for a 39-36 win.

Freshman John Richardson got to play hero in NIU's 39-36 win at Ohio Saturday, capping a second-half comeback with a 37-yard Josh Richardson field goal as time expired to give NIU its first MAC win.

Richardson bounced back from a 1-for-3 start on field goals to kick his first career game-winner.

"It was tough missing two earlier in the game," Richardson said. "I just knew I had to get through that and help my team win the game."

“I didn’t even watch. I was sick to my stomach," quarterback Ross Bowers said of Richardson's field goal. "Me and Jack Heflin were sitting on the bench. We were looking at each other, like … I’ll just wait for the reaction.”

All he needed to see was his Huskie teammates storming the field.

Career days from Mitchell Brinkman and Cole Tucker helped spur Northern Illinois.

NIU entered the game last in the NCAA FBS in third-down conversions, but Bowers shook off those woes to the tune of 10-for-16 on third down Saturday. On a third down in the fourth quarter, Bowers found Brinkman for a 48-yard pass that set up a a 4-yard rushing score from Tre Harbison, one of three for the Huskie tailback as NIU went up 36-29.

Ohio respondedr with a 47-yard scoring strike from Nathan Rourke to Shane Hooks to tie it at 36-36 with 3:38 to go in the fourth quarter.

“I’m a resilient person," NIU coach Thomas Hammock said. "I’m a tough-minded person. The team and my coaches showed that type of toughness that we want to establish long-term with this program.”

NIU needed a little magic just to get the offense jump-started in the second half.

Trailing 21-10 early in the third, Childers ran 70 yards up the middle in a backup role as a change-of-pace, setting up a 4-yard Harbison touchdown that cut Ohio's lead to five after an unsuccessful two-point conversion try.

“[Harbison] broke some tackles," Hammock said. "He missed some runs early in the game that put us behind the sticks. I got on him a little bit, and he responded the right way.”

That sparked the Huskie offense, which went 76 yards over 13 plays on its next drive as Harbison scored his second touchdown, this time from a yard out as NIU went up 22-21 with 3:13 left in the third quarter.

After a defensive stop, NIU went on another long drive, keyed by a 28-yard reception that Brinkman hauled in through contact. Bowers found Tyrice Richie for his third receiving score of the season, this one covering 30 yards.

Ohio mounted its own drive immediately following the Richie score, going 73 yards for a score to tie the game. Ryan Leuerhman hauled in the touchdown reception, then Julian Ross escaped Mykelti Williams' shoe-string tackle attempt on the two-point conversion to tie it 29-29.

In the first half, with Ohio already having marched its way to two scores, the Bobcats called a throwback to left tackle Austen Pleasants, who caught the ball and rumbled in 2 yards for what goes down as a rushing play to take a 21-10 lead; that was the score at halftime after the Huskies missed a field goal to end the half.

Ohio took a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter with some trickery. Following a Devin Haney holding call in the end zone, Ohio took advantage of the fresh set of downs from the 1-yard line by dialing up a reverse pass that went from running back Julian Ross, to wide receiver DL Knock, who lofted an off-balance pass to Rourke in the end zone for a touchdown.

Adam Buirge scored off a blocked punt by Corey Lersch, scooping and scoring from 3 yards out to open the scoring. Ohio answered with an effortless drive, capped by a Rourke TD run to tie it at 7-7.

NIU's Michael Kennedy was taken off the field on a stretcher after a hit on the opening kickoff after a hit by Keye Thompson. Thompson was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the play, but the initial call of targeting was rescinded. Kennedy was taken to a nearby medical facility and returned to the stadium in the third quarter.

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