LARAMIE, Wyo. – Not even Kenny Golladay could save the Northern Illinois football team.
The senior wide receiver had another stellar performance but the Huskies lost 40-34 in triple overtime at Wyoming in the season-opener in Laramie. It was a game that was delayed two hours after a lightning storm before the contest, resulting in it ending at 2:35 a.m. MST on Sunday morning.
Golladay finished as the team's leading receiver and rushing – hauling in 10 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns and rushing it six times for 82 yards and a score. Golladay, who only had 14 rushing yards last year, accounted for three of the four touchdowns in the game.
In triple overtime, Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare was nearly intercepted on the first play before Huskies kicker Christian Hagan missed wide left on a 37-yard field goal. Wyoming won the game with a game-winning, 7-yard touchdown run on a scramble by quarterback Josh Allen.
The Huskies trailed 27-20 late in the fourth quarter, before Hare led an 10-play, 77-yard drive that resulted in a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Shane Wimann to tie it and send it into overtime.
With the Huskies opening the first overtime with the ball, Golladay started with a 23-yard run but the Huskies eventually fumbled it on a snap on third and goal from the 2-yard line. The Cowboys had a chance to win it but missed on a 38-yard field goal by Cooper Rohte, who also missed from 49 at the end of regulation.
Wyoming opened the second overtime with a 5-yard touchdown run by Brian Hill, who finished with 125 rushing yards. Golladay made another spectacular shoe-string catch for 16 yards and then Hare eventually scored from 1-yard out to send the game to triple overtime.
Hare looked sharp in his first game back since tearing his Achilles midway through the 2015 season. He finished going 24 for 39 with 329 yards and three touchdown passes.
Senior running back Joel Bouagnon, who rushed for 1,285 yards last year, had 10 carries for 16 yards.
Wyoming, which went 2-10 last year but brought back 17 starters, was led by Hill, Allen (19 for 29, 245 yards, 2 touchdowns) and receivers Tanner Gentry (8 catches, 104 yards) and Jake Maulhardt (5 catches, 106 yards).
It was a rough game for the Huskies in the penalty department. They finished with 12 for 106, most of which came on defense – including five defensive holding calls.
Wyoming also had untimely flags, with both a kick return for a touchdown and a punt return for a score called back.
The Huskies got a gift in their first drive of the season from the Wyoming special teams. With Northern Illinois facing a fourth and 2, the Huskies lined up to punt and were called for a false start, but the Cowboys hit Huskies punter Jake Ambrose and were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty – giving NIU a first down.
With newfound life on the drive, the Huskies went down the field and Hare found Golladay down the right sideline for a 39-yard touchdown pass.
However, the Huskie defense was called for two holding penalties in the first quarter – including one by Shawun Lurry on a play in which sophomore linebacker Renard Cheren intercepted Allen and returned it deep into Cowboy territory.
Northern Illinois showed off its fast-scoring offense in the first half when the Huskies went 75 yards on three plays – including a 51-yard reception by Christian Blake to end the first quarter and capped by a 34-yard touchdown run on a sweep to Golladay to put the Huskies ahead 13-3 – however Northern Illinois kicker Christian Hagan missed the extra point.
However, defensive penalties doomed the Huskies in the first half. They were called for defensive holding on a pair of third downs and Wyoming turned the extended drives into 10 points – including a 2-yard touchdown run by Hill and a 35-yard field goal by Cooper Rothe – to send the game into halftime tied 13-13.
After NIU opened the second half with back-to-back three-and-outs, Wyoming went ahead on 17-yard pass from Allen to Gentry.
Then Golladay answered again. Before a 12-yard run earlier on the drive, Golladay hauled in a pass from Hare on a third-and-8 crossing route and took it 27 yards to tie it 20-20.
Northern Illinois' defense continued to shoot itself in the foot in the third quarter, committing three penalties for 31 yards on one drive and Wyoming retook the lead on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Maulhardt, putting the Cowboys up 27-20 with 1:39 left in the period.
The Huskies had a combined 27 yards on their next three drives, before Hare led the 10-play, 77-yard drive capped by Wimann's touchdown reception to tie it with 1:13 left in the game.
Wyoming stormed down the field 51 yards to set up a chance for Rothe to attempt a potentially game-winning field goal as time expired, but it was wide right to send the game into overtime.