Buffalo kicker Peter Fardon missed the extra point after Buffalo scored a touchdown with 14 seconds remaining, giving the visiting Northern Illinois Huskiesa 31-30 victory over the Bulls Saturday at UB Stadium.
The Bulls scored three touchdowns in the final quarter to rally from a 31-10 deficit before Fardon’s game-tying attempt went wide left. NIU won for the third straight week to improve to 5-3 on the season, 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference while Buffalo fell to 2-6, 1-3.
Buffalo quarterback Chazz Anderson hit Ed Young on a three-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with 14 seconds left to pull the Bulls within one, closing out a 14-play, 88-yard drive that began with 2:49 on the clock.
“We made one more play than they did,” said NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren. “I was pretty disappointed in the finish. We didn’t get any first downs in the fourth quarter, we didn’t convert third downs in the fourth quarter and we couldn’t stop them on fourth down on defense. We’ve got to learn to close games a little bit better. We’ve got to play better than that.”
Anderson completed 35-of-53 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns on the day and ran for 56 yards on 10 carries. The Huskies took advantage of five UB turnovers, including two on muffed punts.
Northern Illinois broke a 10-10 tie late in the first half when quarterback Chandler Harnish scored on a six-yard run with 37 seconds to play in the half to conclude a 10-play, 59-yard drive. The Huskies picked up where they left off to start the second half when Harnish hit Perez Ashford on a 39-yard completion. Two plays later, Jas Hopkins scored on a 12-yard run to put the Huskies up 24-10.
Buffalo’s third muffed punt of the game, and the second recovered by the Huskies, led to Hopkins’ third touchdown as NIU earned possession on the UB 33-yard line and drove in for the score with Hopkins scoring from one yard out. Northern Illinois surged ahead 31-10 and appeared to be en route to a solid victory.
However, the Bulls’ defense shut down the Huskie offense for the remainder of the game, forcing NIU to go three-and-out on each of their final four possessions.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo offense kept battling, pulling within 14 on an Anderson to Alex Neutz touchdown pass. That drive was kept alive by a scrambling Anderson to Ed Young completion on fourth-and-four.
Buffalo’s next drive was stopped by a Rashaan Melvin interception at the NIU 23-yard line, but the Bulls came back on their next possession and closed the gap to 31-24 when Anderson hit Marcus Rivers from 15 yards out.
Once again the Huskies went three-and-out, and UB started its final drive on its own 12-yard line.
Harnish completed just 11-of-26 passes for 150 yards and led the Huskies in rushing with 12 carries for 67 yards. The Huskies converted 7-of-19 third down tries.
“They [Buffalo] did a good job on first and 10,” Doeren said. “They did a nice job of playing the run and they had it pretty packed in for most of the day.
“I have to give Buffalo credit, they had two of the best players I’ve seen all year with that running back and quarterback,” said NIU linebacker Pat Schiller. “They were phenomenal players, they were able to fight back from the deficit. When it came down to that final point, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. We were lucky right there.”