|Idaho wins at NIU|
DEKALB, Ill. - Nate Enderle taking a knee twice as time expired was a calm ending to a dramatic fourth quarter as the Idaho Vandals won 34-31 at Northern Illinois Saturday afternoon.
"It ended up all right," Idaho coach Robb Akey said moments after his team improved to 3-1 for its best start since 1994. "I don't like it going from a three-score ballgame to what it was. ... Our kids responded. We're growing up a little bit."
Idaho seemingly had complete control of the game as the fourth quarter ticked down. But the Huskies made it tense when, after scoring to close the gap to 34-23 with 8:25 to play, they held the Vandals and forced Idaho's first punt of the game. Jordan Delegal blocked the kick to give NIU the ball at the Idaho one. Me'co Brown scored from the one to cut the lead to 34-31 with 5:52 to play.
Enderle directed a drive that included a key 25-yard third-conversion pass to Eric Greenwood deep into NIU's territory. The Huskies called the final timeouts of the game as Idaho continued to push forward - largely on the bullish runs of senior back DeMaundray Woolridge.
The Vandals showed tenacity, maturity and effectiveness throughout the non-conference game.
Enderle connected on 18 of 23 throws for 270 yards and three touchdowns with passes going to 10 receivers. Woolridge led the running backs with a hard-fought 143 yards on 19 carries - one of which was a one-yard TD.
Three receivers had three catches each with Greenwood tallying 67 yards, Preston Davis 29 and Maurice Shaw 28. Princeton McCarty scored on his lone reception - a 58-yarder with 47 seconds left in the first half.
Defensively, the Vandals were able to limit the Huskies to 128 rushing yards and were relentless in their pursuit of NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish. The Vandals wound up with four passes defensed and five tackles for loss.
The Vandals gave up some ground on NIU's first drive but once the Huskies reached the red zone, they held and NIU was limited to a 23-yard field goal by Mike Salerno with 8:57 left in the first.
Idaho's offense sputtered some on its first possession and wound up with a 53-yard field goal attempt by Trey Farquhar. He had the distance but the ball drifted to the right and NIU regained possession with 3:32 to go in the opening quarter.
After forcing an NIU punt to regain possession with 1:21 left in the first, the Vandals went 80 yards to score with 13:07 to go in the first half when Nathan Enderle found Daniel Hardy in the end zone with a 26-yard pass. Farquhar's kick was good for a 7-3 lead.
The Huskies popped a couple big plays to march to the Idaho 28 before Jonah Sataraka tore through the line for a quarterback sack to force a 53-yard field goal attempt, which was wide right.
Idaho stretched its lead to 14-3 when Deonte Jackson spun away from a tackle and danced into the end zone to complete a 21-yard scoring pass from Enderle with 5:34 left in the second. The seven-play, 64-yard drive was punctuated with big plays - a 26-yard pickup on an Enderle-to-Greenwood pass on the first play of the drive and a direct snap to Jackson that led to a first down.
NIU responded with a Chandler Harnish to Willie Clark pass with 1:50 to go in the half. The seven-yard scoring play capped a seven-play drive set up by a 33-yard kickoff return.
The Vandals made the most of the final two minutes of the half with a seven-play, 92-yard drive that consumed 1:02. After a muffed kickoff return left the Vandals at their own seven, Jackson gave Idaho a bit of breathing room with a three-yard run and a four-yard reception before Enderle went to Eric Greenwood for a 16-yard gain and then to Preston Davis for a 14-yard pickup. The Vandals eluded misfortune on the next play when tackle Bryce Sinclair picked up an Enderle fumble. Enderle found Princeton McCarty with a short pass the shifty back turned into a 58-yard scoring play with 47.3 seconds left in the half. Farquhar's kick made it 21-10.
The Huskies were able to respond with a 50-yard field goal by Salerno as time expired for a 21-13 halftime score.
The Vandals had an answer when the second half started. They marched the length of the field with a combination of running and passing to score with 7:59 to go in the third when DeMaundray Woolridge bulled through from the one. Farquhar's kick made it 28-13.
NIU answered - but with a 25-yard Salerno field goal with 3:18 left in the third to cut the score to 28-16.
Not to be outdone, Idaho came back with a score of its own - a 33-yard Farquhar field goal with 14:41 left in the game. The Vandals had scored a touchdown on a five-yard lob from Enderle to Hardy but a hold negated the play and backed up the Vandals to their 16. Two incomplete passes brought Farquhar onto the field to make the score 31-16.
Aaron Lavarias chased down Harnish on the Huskies' next possession. As he faced a possible sack at the NIU 2, Harnish threw the ball but was called for grounding. NIU was unable to dig itself out of the hole and, after a 34-yard punt return by Keo, Idaho took over at the Huskies' 21. However, they, too, faltered and settled for a 40-yard Farquhar field goal for a 24-16 lead with 11:30 to go.
The Huskies capitalized on a couple big plays en route to scoring on a four-yard pass from Harnish to Landon Cox with 8:25 left in the game. Salerno's PAT made it 34-23.