The Arkansas Razorbacks were too much for the Northern Illinois University Huskies to handle Saturday night in Fayetteville, Ark. as NIU fell to 3-1 on the season after dropping a 52-14 decision at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Arkansas’ special teams and defense accounted for its first two touchdowns, and while the Huskie defense played valiantly at times and held the Razorbacks below its per rush average, they could not hold up for the 34:38 that Arkansas held the ball as UA effectively mixed the run and the pass.
NIU saw its nation-leading 17-game road winning streak come to an end and dropped its first regular season contest in 27 games, since the 2012 season opener versus Iowa.
“I give (Arkansas) a ton of credit,” said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. “They are a fine football team. They came out, made a big play in the kicking game, they didn’t turn the ball over and made plays. We didn’t. We’ll go back, learn from this, watch the film and make good use of the bye week.”
After playing on the road over the last three weeks, NIU has an open week coming up before opening a three-game homestand, and opening Mid-American Conference play, versus Kent State on October 4.
On Saturday, the Razorbacks’ Korliss Marshall returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, putting the Huskies in an immediate 7-0 hole and later in the first quarter, NIU quarterback Drew Hare sacked and lost the ball. The fumble was picked up on the NIU 14 by UA’s Darius Philon and returned for a touchdown.
NIU went three-and-out on its next drive and Arkansas drove 69 yards in 12 plays to score its first offensive touchdown of the game. Jonathan Williams broke four tackles to score from 15 yards out and the Razorbacks took a 21-0 lead with 21 seconds to play in the first quarter.
The Huskie defense came up with a stop on the Razorbacks’ first drive of the second quarter. After Arkansas drove to the NIU 25, Marlon Moore recorded a tackle for loss on second down and an incomplete pass forced the Hogs to try a 43-yard field goal, which missed.
From there, NIU drove 74 yards in eight plays for the touchdown on its best offensive series of the game. Joel Bouagnon contributed a 25-yard run and Hare hit Aregeros Turner three times on the drive, including on the 11-yard touchdown play. It was the first career score for Turner, whose three catches in the game all came on the drive.
In addition to the 25-yard run, Bouagnon was the Huskies’ leading receiver with a career high five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown – on an 11-yard screen pass in the final quarter. Bouagnon also gained 45 yards on a screen in the first quarter for his career long play. Hare completed 18-of-29 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
As a team, the Huskies were held to 123 rushing yards on 32 carries for the game.
Trailing 21-7 with 3:29 to play in the half, the Huskies could not hold off Arkansas in the final minutes of the half. The Razorbacks drove 71 yards in 10 plays and 2:40 for the touchdown. On the TD play, UA quarterback Brandon Allen was chased out of the pocket but scrambled to find Jared Cornelius in the end zone for the 10 yard score.
NIU struggled to put together anything offensively in the third quarter. Despite playing tough run defense and forcing a three-and-out on Arkansas’ first series of the period, the Huskie defense could not withstand a second onslaught. With 3:34 to play in the quarter, Allen completed a 12-play, 68-yard drive with a two-yard run on the bootleg to give the Hogs a 35-7 lead.
The Huskie defense made one last stand following Tyler Wedel’s rushing attempt on a fake punt fell one yard short and Arkansas got the ball on the NIU 34. As the fourth quarter started, UA faced first and goal from the NIU four-yard line. Alex Collins, who led the Hogs with 79 rushing yards, netted nothing on two carries and Sean Folliard stopped Allen for a loss to force Arkansas to kick a 21-yard field goal.
NIU then drove down the field for its second touchdown drive, using 10 plays to go 75 yards. Hare rushed for 19 yards and Stingily had a 21-yard pickup on the drive before Hare hit Bouagnon on the screen for the score. With 10:05 to play, NIU trailed 38-14.
The Huskies’ onside kick attempt failed and on the first play from scrimmage, Allen hit Keon Hatcher for a 44-yard touchdown pass to make the score 45-14. Arkansas’ reserves completed the scoring as Marshall, who had started the game with the kickoff return, scored on a 27-yard run.
The 52 points were the most given up by NIU since 2011, when Toledo scored 60 points in a game the Huskies won, 63-60.
Arkansas improved to 3-1 with the win.