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Richardson's field goal gives Huskies 39-36 win over Bobcats

Northern Illinois explodes in 2nd half


ATHENS – John Richardson’s 37-yard field goal as time expired spoiled Ohio’s homecoming and gave Northern Illinois a 39-36 victory Saturday at Peden Stadium.

Ohio built a 21-10 halftime lead before Northern Illinois took over in the third quarter. The teams then traded scores in the fourth quarter, with Shane Hooks’ 47-yard touchdown catch from Nathan Rourke tying the game at 36. But the Bobcats left too much time for a Huskies offense they could not stop in the second half.

Taking over at its own 25-yard line with 3:38 to go, Northern Illinois got 14 yards on a Ross Bowers completion to Tyrice Richie and then 22 yards on a Tre Harbison run to the Ohio 39-yard line. Harbison’s 11-yard run quickly moved the Huskies into field goal range.

Harbison got just enough for a first down on third-and-4 from the Ohio 22 with 1:05 left, and that gave Northern Illinois (2-4, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) the opportunity to run down the clock before calling timeout with three seconds left to set up the game-winning kick.

Bowers completed 23 of 39 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown, while Harbison ran 25 times for 119 yards. Both Cole Tucker (eight catches for 118 yards) and Mitch Brinkman (five receptions for 100 yards) were over 100 yards receiving. The Huskies racked up 510 yards of offense.

“We did not play very well the whole second half defensively, and that is bothersome,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. “It’s not that they got worn down because we were able to control the ball offensively when we got it. We went on long drives, so it wasn’t like it was three-and-out for us on the offensive side of it and they were right back on the field again. They had plenty of time to get to where they had their energy and were ready to go when they stepped on the field. We apparently didn’t execute well, certainly not well enough to win.”

But until the second half, their offense produced very little. They punted on the third quarter’s opening possession but scored every time after that. Harbison scored on a 4-yard run, set up by a 70-yard run by backup quarterback Marcus Childers. The conversion pass failed, leaving Ohio up 21-16, but the Huskies took the lead 22-16 on a Harbison 1-yard run with another failed tow-point try.

Then after the Bobcats (2-4, 1-1 MAC) turned it over on downs on the first play of the fourth quarter – with Rourke missing on a deep pass attempt on fourth-and-2 – Northern Illinois added to its lead with a Bowers 30-yard touchdown pass to Richie that made it 29-21.

“We had guys making plays,” Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammock said. “We know where our offense is going. It’s taken us some time, but we’re going to keep on building what we have with the players that we have and put them in situations where they can be successful.”

Ohio answered on Rourke’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Leuhrman and tied the game with Julian Ross’ two-point conversion run. The Huskies took back the lead with 5:15 left in the game on a Harbison 3-yard run, and Rourke answered for the Bobcats with runs of 19 and 10 yards before his scoring pass to Hooks.

Rourke had a huge game, going 19 of 31 passing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He added 80 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and caught a 2-yard touchdown pass on a trick-play pass from DL Knock in the first half.

“You always want the ball in his hands,” Solich said. “There are a few times where you might want to have a call back where you ran something a little bit differently with him having the option maybe to hand off or keep, like he was doing some and having success with. You obviously have to make decisions when you do, but he’s the guy that you want to have the ball in his hands.”

Northern Illinois’ only touchdown of the first half came via its special teams when Corey Lersch blocked a punt, and Adam Buirge picked it up and returned it 3 yards to the end zone only two minutes into the game.

Ohio responded with an 8-yard rushing touchdown from Rourke to tie the game at 7, and after Richardson hit a 51-yard field goal, the Bobcats took the lead early in the second quarter on Knock’s pass to Rourke.

Ilyas Motley’s interception set up Ohio’s final score of the first half, though the Bobcats were fortunate to keep possession after Motley attempted to lateral to a teammate on the return, and the Huskies came up with it. However, it was ruled to have been an illegal forward pass instead, penalizing the Bobcats but allowing them to keep possession.

Ohio came up with another trick play to find the end zone, with Rourke throwing a lateral pass to a wide-open Austen Pleasants to increase the advantage to 21-10 late in the half.

While Richardson hit from 51 yards and nailed the game winner, he missed field goals of 44 and 49 yards in the first half.

“What is more deflating, in my opinion, is the fact that we were winning, and we weren’t able to put them away,” Rourke said. “We couldn’t move the ball in the third quarter, and it is tough to put your defense in that sort of position when it goes on their side.”

O’Shaan Allison ran 11 times for 79 yards for Ohio. Ross, in his first game since the opener, had nine carries for 26 yards. Hooks had a huge game with 131 yards on seven receptions.

Jared Dorsa led the Bobcats with 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Will Evans had three tackles for loss, including a sack.

The Bobcats host Kent State at noon Saturday at Peden Stadium.






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