NIU loses 29-23 to Miami (Ohio) at home
Northern Illinois didn't convert on a third down, instead depending on big plays in a 29-23 loss to Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday in DeKalb.
The loss dropped the Huskies to 3-8 overall and 2-5 in the MAC, while the RedHawks improved to 5-6 and 2-5 in the conference.
Here are five take-aways from the loss:
Interception ends NIU comeback attempt
Down 29-23 in the fourth, the Huskies drove down to Miami territory, and after a fourth-down conversion on a screen pass to Kacper Rutkiewicz had a fresh set of downs at the Miami 26 with 5:40 left.
But on second-and-20 after a hold, Nevan Cremascoli was intercepted.
Miami was able to run out the clock for the win.
Miami turns big third-down plays into points
Not every third-down play for the RedHawks was great -- Devonte O'Malley got a strip sack and fumble recovery on a third-and-long -- but Miami got some big gains in third-and-long situations that helped build a two-score lead.
Up 19-17 late in the third quarter, Ray Thomas tackled quarterback Aveon Smith for a 3-yard loss, bringing up third-and-13 from the Mami 30. Smith scrambled for 21 yards for a first. On the next series facing a third-and-8, Smith found Mac Hippenhammer for a 49-yard bomb to expand the lead to two scores for the first time.
Defense tapers off in first half
The Huskies came out swinging on defense early, forcing punts on the RedHawks' first five drives and holding them to 36 yards. But the Redhawks got touchdowns on the last two drives of the half on 100 yards of total offense on those scoring drives.
Deven Lafayette and Pierce Oppong shared a sack, Jordan Gandy and Izayah Green-May each had a deflection, and Lafayette, James Ester and JaVaughn Byrd had tackles for losses, all in the first half.
But those last two scores on runs by quarterback Aveon Smith -- and an earlier safety -- turned a 10-0 NIU lead early into a 16-10 lead for the Redhawks at the break.
Offense rolls early
Despite the steady snow early on, the NIU offense scored on its first two possessions. Jaiden Credle went for 55 yards on the first play for the Huskies, although NIU ended up settling for a field goal.
On the next drive, Nevan Cremascoli hit Shemar Thornton for a pair of first-down passes, then hit Liam Soraghan for a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 10-0 lead.
That didn't hold. After 128 yards on the first two drives, NIU managed just 12 on their next five drives combined without a first down.
NIU started its third drive pinned back on its own 3. On the second play, Harrison Waylee fumbled the ball in the end zone. He kicked it out of bounds, resulting in a safety on the play. It was the first safety the Huskies have given up since Nov. 10, 2021 against Ball State.
Waylee missed last week's game, as did Anatrio Brown. Both returned for limited action, with Brown sitting out the first half. He did have an 86-yard scoring run late in the third quarter to draw the Huskies to 26-23.