Northern Illinois dropped its third straight game to start the season, losing to Ball State, 31-25, Wednesday at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Indiana.
The Huskies (0-3) had their first lead of the year in the game and never trailed in the first half, but a late pick-six in the second quarter for Ball State (2-1) changed the momentum of the game.
Here are the main takeaways from the game.
Score in fourth makes it close
Down 28-14 in the fourth, NIU rolled off a 13-play, 80-yard drive to get the deficit down to six points.
Ross Bowers found Daniel Crawford on a third-and-10 to keep the drive going, then he found Trayvon Rudolph for six on fourth-and-3.
Erin Collins ran the ball in for the score later on a third-and-goal on the 3, Bowers found Crawford for the two-point conversion to make it 28-22.
But Ball State responded with an 11-play, 59-yard drive that ate up 4:49, pushing its lead to nine after a 33-yard field goal.
Nail in the coffin
Yo’Heinz Tyler had a huge game for Ball State, with seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
Early in the fourth, Ball State took a two-score lead for the first time when Drew Plitt found Tyler for seven yards. The big play on the drive happened two plays earlier when Plitt found Tyler for a 64-yard gain.
The two-point conversion put the Cardinals up 28-14.
Third-quarter woes continue for Huskies
NIU entered the game being outscored 38-0 in the third quarter this year.
And while the defense improved its performance – allowing 110 yards and six points – the offense still went scoreless, going three and out on its first two possessions.
Caleb Huntley put the Cardinals ahead for the first time on a 3-yard run, but the Cardinals missed the extra point.
And adding insult to injury on the drive, Kyle Pugh, who had nine tackles, was called for targeting and ejected. He also will miss the first half of next week’s game at Western Michigan.
Ball State opened the half with a long drive, But Dillon Thomas came up with an interception in the end zone to end the drive.
Costly turnovers return
Up 14-7 and driving, Amechi Uzodinma intercepted Ross Bowers and returned it 71 yards for a score.
It was the first pick-six for Ball State since 2010 against Liberty. It was the fourth turnover returned against NIU this year, and the second interception of Bowers returned for a score this season.
NIU drove late in the half but time ran out and the Huskies missed a 45-yard field goal by John Richardson.
Fast start for Huskies offense
The Huskies opened the game with a touchdown on the first drive, taking its first lead of the season.
Bowers found Tyrice Richie for 17 yards for the score. The drive was kept alive on third-and-10 when Bowers found ColeTucker for 10 yards. Harrison Waylee started the drive with a 28-yard run.
Ball State answered the Huskies opening drive by getting down to the NIU 12.
But true freshman Devon O’Malley recorded his first tackle of the year, a sack, after a false start and then the Cardinals missed a 42-yard field goal.
Bowers was 27 for 40 for 300 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
NIU answers back
After Ball State tied the game early in the second quarter, the Huskies needed less than three minutes to go 74 yards in six plays to retake the lead.
The drive started with Bowers finding Trayvon Rudolph for 47 yards, then after a penalty finding Danie Crawford for 21 on a first-and-25. The next three plays all went to Erin Collins for a total of 19 yards, including a 2-yard scoring run, to go up 14-7.
Collins only had one carry before the drive. He finished with eight carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns. Harrison Waylee led the Huskies with 63 yards on 17 carries.