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YPSILANTI, Mich. — The Northern Illinois University Huskies (6-2) came back from a fourth quarter deficit against the Eastern Michigan University Eagles in manufacturing a 28-17 win at “the Factory” and becoming bowl-eligible for the seventh straight season.
The Huskies amassed 386 yards on offense, including a 168 yard rushing performance by quarterback Drew Hare, but allowed 381 total yards to the Eagles. Eastern Michigan blocked two NIU field goal attempts to keep the game close.
“Our team, we have our motto, ‘the Hard Way,’ and that was hard today,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey, who improved to 18-5 as the head coach at NIU with the win. “We were doing the little things (wrong) and we had to reel it in. Our guys were making plays (late), we finally got pressure on the quarterback and after getting behind in the fourth quarter, I like the way we bounced back.”
Eastern Michigan scored a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a 17-14 lead when Eagle quarterback Reginald Bell ran right for four yards to give EMU its first lead of the game.
The Huskies answered the EMU score in putting together a nine play, 65 yard drive capped by a 24 yard touchdown run by Joel Bouagnon, who finished with 85 yards on 10 carries.
Cameron Stingily and Hare combined for 59 yards rushing in putting together a seven play, 62 yard scoring drive to give the Huskies a 28-17 lead, capped by a one yard Stingily touchdown run with a 3:26 remaining.
Stingily finished with 64 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns.
NIU allowed two 100-yard rushers in Bell (172 yds.) and Ryan Brumfield (112 yds.), but the Huskie defense stiffened when it had to in closing out the game, including stopping the Eagles on a fourth and 10 play with 6:47 to play.
In the third quarter, Buoagnon ran for 39 yards to the Eagle 37, and Stingily followed with a key 14 yard run before Eastern Michigan blocked its second Tyler Wedel field goal attempt from 32 yards out to prevent the Huskies from converting.
After Eastern Michigan stopped the Huskies on fourth and one in the opening series of the second half, the NIU defense came up big with an interception on the very next play.
Eastern Michigan blocked Wedel’s 24 yard field goal attempt to end a 48 yard drive that would have extended the NIU lead to 10 with eight minutes left in the first half. Two possessions later, EMU quarterback Reginald Bell set up an Eagles score with a 43 yard run to the NIU 13 just before the half when Dylan Mulder kicked a 21 yard field goal with four seconds left to narrow the Huskie lead to four.
NIU jumped out in front 7-0 in its first offensive series, driving 83 yards in three plays capped by a career-best 78 yard touchdown run by Hare.
Eastern Michigan answered on the ensuing drive, moving the ball 80 yards on 10 plays, as Ryan Brumfield rushed the final four yards for the tying score after running for 32 yards on a third down play to move the Eagles into the red zone.
NIU appeared to score a touchdown on an EMU fumble by David Gibson returned by Rasheen Lemon 24 yards to the end zone, but the play was overturned after a review. On the next possession, Hare converted a fourth and one play at the EMU 32 and a third down and six play at the 25 before Stingily rushed the final 15 yards over two plays to give NIU a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
NIU moves to a mid-week schedule of #MACtion beginning with its next game on ESPN2. The Huskies play at Ball State on at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5.