MOSCOW, Idaho – Things just weren't going right for Northern Illinois.
Penalties hurt the Huskies as Idaho drove right down the field for a touchdown on its first drive Saturday. The Huskies would go on to commit 11 penalties for 107 yards.
The Huskies' defense had trouble containing Idaho's zone read game. Always-reliable kicker Mathew Sims missed a 42-yard field goal early in the second half.
The Vandals (0-3) gave NIU everything they had inside the Kibbie Dome. However, something clicked in the second half for the Huskies, who escaped with a 45-35 win.
For NIU, the bottom line is the Huskies improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2003. On the flip side, there's things the Huskies need to clean up, such as the penalties.
"I won't mince words on that. Penalties are not acceptable. They drive me crazy," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "You've got to love the win. You've got to take the win, and in that 24 hours we've got to love it, but we've got to own up to it, too."
Trailing by seven points at halftime, NIU turned things around. The offense was more consistent, and Lynch finally broke through on the patented QB draw with a 61-yard touchdown run. The Vandals' zone read wasn't beating NIU's defense constantly. The Huskies pressured the quarterback like crazy, finishing with a school-record 11 sacks, constantly rushing four down linemen.
"It was incredible, just to see these guys just get after the quarterback almost every play," linebacker Jamaal Bass said. "It was fun for me, to see those guys make a lot of plays and a lot of sacks."
Lynch helped give NIU a 35-28 lead with 6:12 left in the third quarter on his 61-yard draw TD. The Vandals had been doing a good job bottling up the play, but Lynch broke free.
In the fourth quarter, NIU expanded its lead with a 51-yard field goal by Sims. The Huskies capped the scoring when Luke Eakes caught a 13-yard scoring pass from Lynch.
Lynch said the offense never really got into sync, despite the high point total.
"I just felt like we never got in that rhythm today on offense," Lynch said. "We still put up 45 points, and we're sitting here complaining, but we just never got in that rhythm."
It wasn't as easy as many thought it would be, but in the end a win is a win. The Huskies will look to improve to 3-0 next week when they host Eastern Illinois in their home opener.