DeKALB – Friday, Northern Illinois announced that single-game tickets were no longer available for Saturday's home opener against Eastern Illinois.
The student section seemed more full than normal an hour before kickoff, and more fans piled in 30 minutes before the start of the game.
As the first quarter started, the stands filled up. NIU announced the crowd of 23,595 as the first sellout at Huskie Stadium since 2003, when Maryland came to DeKalb for NIU's home opener. The crowd got to witness a high-scoring, 43-39 NIU win over Eastern Illinois.
"It was an emotional game. The crowd gave us a lot of enthusiasm," NIU safety Jimmie Ward said. "During tough breaks the crowd helped us pull this through."
Eastern Illinois head coach Dino Babers said it was a tough atmosphere for his team to play in.
"I thought the fans, some of them said some weird stuff to me, no doubt, I thought they were super," he said. "They love their football team and they make a lot of noise, that was really cool. Your fans and your noise level cost us some plays out there."
Tailbacks have big day: Jordan Lynch led the Huskies with 189 rushing yards, but he also got some help from senior tailback Cameron Stingily, who ran for a career-high 134 yards and two touchdowns. Stingily's backup, Keith Harris Jr., added two touchdowns and ran for 25 yards on six carries.
"I give all praise to the offensive line. If they can get me to the second level, third level I feel like I can make a play," Stingily said. "If I'm getting to the second and third level without getting touched, I feel like it's at least four yards per carry."
Stingily was a tough guy to bring down all night, and plowed over a number of EIU defenders.
"The guy that was running guys over, got the long (46-yard) run, that guy? That guy's a bull," Babers said. "That was not fun. There's a lot of times when you're an old man, you wish you could go out there and play the game one more time. Not with him running the ball. I was fine just standing on the sideline coaching."
Sebastiano injured: NIU sophomore wide receiver Angelo Sebastiano left the game in the second half after being hit by EIU corner Pete Houlihan, who was flagged and ejected from the game due to the new targeting rule.
Carey didn't want to speculate on Sebastiano's status before speaking to the training staff.
Lynch left the game for a couple plays after being tackled along the sideline in the second half, but Carey said he's fine.
Santa steps in for Lemon: NIU starting outside linebacker Rasheen Lemon was suspended for Saturday's game due to an unspecified violation of team rules. Carey said the suspension is indefinite.
Junior Michael Santacaterina stepped in and led the Huskies with 15 tackles.
"I just wanted to go in and do my job," Santacaterina said. "Just make plays when they came to me. I didn't want to get out of my gaps, try and do too much."
Sims' streak snapped: NIU kicker Mathew Sims' streak of 64 consecutive extra points ended in the first quarter. Sims' first extra-point attempt in the first quarter bounced off the left upright.
Offense, offense, offense: The teams combined for 1,179 yards of total offense, 602 of them coming from the Huskies. NIU ran for 367 yards, while Lynch threw for 235.