MT. PLEASANT, MICHIGAN – Things went from bad to worse for the Northern Illinois football team.
The Huskies lost their third consecutive game, falling 29-19 at Central Michigan in the conference opener on a rainy afternoon in Mt. Pleasant.
The Huskies had four turnovers in the second half, allowing Central Michigan to score 19 unanswered points and take the lead for good.
It marks the first 3-game losing streak for the Huskies since 2009 – when it closed out the regular season with losses to Ohio and Central Michigan before falling to South Florida in the International Bowl.
Junior quarterback Drew Hare struggled keeping ahold of the football in the second half, fumbling on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter – leading to his temporary benching and 10 points for the Chippewas. On his only drive of the game, backup quarterback Ryan Graham threw an interception and Central Michigan scored a touchdown three plays later.
"It was a wet ball and I think he struggled with his ball handling and decision making today," Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said of Hare. "Pulled him to get him a breath. I think he had two straight turnovers. Drew had a bad series coming out so we just wanted him to catch his breath and let him calm down a little bit."
The Chippewas (2-3 overall, 1-0 in Mid-American Conference West) outscored the Huskies (2-3 overall, 0-1 in MAC West) 23-3 in the third quarter.
Hare went 12 for 28 for 105 passing yards and no touchdowns and had 65 rushing yards on 27 carries. Junior Kenny Golladay had six catches for 54 yards and Aregeros Turner had two receptions for 37 yards.
Joel Bouagnon had 104 rushing yards on 26 carries and had two touchdowns on the loss. He was the first running back to rush for 100 or more yards against Central Michigan since Syracuse on Sept. 13, 2014.
The Huskies fumbled it six times on the day – losing three of them – and had four turnovers on the day. Evident of the strong field position the Chippewas had on the day, the Huskies (316) had more yards of total offense than Central Michigan (275).
"We were in it minus the turnovers, so I don't think that would lead to a bunch of panic," Carey said about the Huskies' third-straight loss. "I would think it leads to getting into the film room and getting better."
Central Michigan appeared to have times in which is struggled with the rain, with several receivers dropping easily catchable balls. On the day, Chippewas junior quarterback Cooper Rush went 16 for 31 with 182 yards and two touchdowns and running back Jahray Hayes rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Northern Illinois sophomore defensive back Shawun Lurry continued his strong season, getting his nation-leading fifth interception to help lead to a Huskie touchdown. After Lurry's pick, he returned it 18 yards to the Central Michigan 23 and the Huskies scored six plays later on a 1-yard run by Bouagnon.
The Huskies, leading 10-3 at the time, also had the ball on a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard-line in the second quarter, but Bouagnon was stopped for a 4-yard loss.
Both teams missed a field goal in the first half. Northern Illinois sophomore Christian Hagan missed from 48 yards on the last play of the first quarter and Central Michigan's Brian Eavey was off from 43 yards on the final play of the second quarter.
The offense for Northern Illinois shot itself in the foot to open the third quarter, with Hare fumbling on an exchange to put the Chippewas on the Huskie 16-yard-line. Central Michigan scored three plays later on a 9-yard pass from Rush to Jesse Kroll.
The two teams traded field goals in the third quarter, with Hagan making from 26 to give the Huskies a temporary lead before Eavey connected from 28 to tie it 13-13. Rush completed a pair of passes on third-and-longs to keep the drive alive before Eavey's field goal – finding Corey Willis for 21 yards and Ben McCord for 19 yards.
Eavey later hit from 41 yards to put the Chippewas ahead 29-13.