NIU works overtime to get 31-24 win over Eastern Michigan

By Rich Rezler
Special to Daily Herald
Updated 11/16/2016 11:44 PM

YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Playing in a stadium nicknamed The Factory, Jordan Huff and the Northern Illinois football team put in some overtime Wednesday night to defeat Eastern Michigan 31-24.

Huff ran for his third touchdown of the game on NIU's first overtime possession. Then backup linebacker Alex Schwab stopped Eastern Michigan's Blake Banham on a fourth-down run to seal the victory.

On a day when the Huskies (4-7, 4-3 MAC West) were forced to play Daniel Santacaterina, their fourth quarterback of the season, Huff became a second-half workhorse after fellow tailback Joel Bouagnon was injured and Schwab was on the field in place of an injured Ladell Flemming.

Santacaterina took over for Ryan Graham in the second quarter and the second pass of his career was tipped and intercepted, setting up a short scoring drive that gave Eastern Michigan (6-5, 3-4) a 21-0 halftime lead.

Things didn't look good. They got better, quickly.

Huff exploded for a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter and gained 142 of his 175 yards in the second half, adding a 27-yard score that put NIU ahead 24-21 with 13:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.

EMU's Paul Fricano tied the game with 24-yard field goal with 43 seconds left to play.

Santacaterina's first collegiate stat line wasn't one for the history books -- 5-for-15 passing for 103 yards and an interception -- but the former Geneva High School standout's first completion was memorable.

He connected with Aregeros Turner on a quick hitter that the senior wideout turned into a 74-yard touchdown that pulled NIU within 21-14. Christian Hagan would add a 33-yard field goal with 2:36 remaining in the third quarter that made it 21-17.

Santacaterina also rushed 13 times for 91 yards.

While the Huskies offense found traction in the second half, the NIU defense changed the tone of the game. After being outgained 313-141 in the first half, the Huskies more than evened things out with a 220-42 advantage in the third quarter.

Graham -- the victim of a roughing-the-passer penalty and a hard hit along the sideline earlier in the game -- was walked off the field after a big hit by the Eagles' Maxx Crosby.

That left Santacaterina to fill in the role previously held by Jordan Hare and Anthony Maddie. The redshirt freshman became the third quarterback to lead NIU into overtime this season, and the first to exit with a victory.

Hare and the Huskies lost a triple-overtime game at Wyoming, and Maddie was under center during a triple-overtime loss to Central Michigan.

The second pass of Santacaterina's collegiate career was tipped and intercepted by the Eagles' Kyle Rachwal, setting up a short scoring drive late in the second quarter that gave Eastern Michigan a 21-0 halftime lead.

A pair of 80-yard, first-quarter scoring drives put the Eagles ahead early. In between those scores, Hagan's 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked, ending NIU's best scoring chance of the half.

Ian Eriksen rushed for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns for Eastern Michigan, which was seeking its seventh win for the first time since 1989. Brogan Roback, who attempted 71 passes in last week's win at Ball State, was 17 of 38 for 184 yards and a touchdown.

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