DEKALB, IL – The Northern Illinois Huskies were looking to even their record in a game dominated by defense.
But Chase Hansen of the Utah Utes had other ideas.
With Utah protecting a 10-6 lead late in the fourth quarter, Hanson picked off NIU QB Marcus Childers and raced 40 yards for the clinching score and Utah beat NIU by a score of 17-6 on Saturday night.
With the win, the Utes are 30-1 in non-conference games and move to 2-0 on the year. NIU drops to 0-2.
NIU opened the scoring as Andrew Gantz nailed a 49-yard field goal with 1:23 left in the first quarter to give the Huskies a 3-0 lead after Lou Groza Award winner Matt Gay had a FG blocked preventing Utah from getting on the board. Later on, Utah had a chance for some points in the second period as they marched 55 yards in 12 plays, but Matt Gay missed a 43-yard field goal wide left with 1:24 left sending NIU into intermission with a 3-0 lead.
Zack Moss had 45 yards rushing in the first half for Utah while Tre Harbison equaled the amount for the Huskies. Marcus Childers completed seven of eleven passes for only 26 yards in the first half.
NIU got the ball to start the second half but were unable to move the ball and punted. The Utes pounced on the opportunity as Utah QB Tyler Huntley hit Jaylen Dixon for 41 yards to the NIU 35. Four plays later, Huntley hit Connor Haller for an eight-yard completion to move the chains.
Later on the drive on a 3rd and 6, Huntley hooked up with Britain Covey for a 14-yard pass play leading to Zack Moss crashing over from a yard out and a 7-3 Utah lead with 8:31 left in the third stanza. The drive covered 9 plays and 76 yards in 4:12.
With NIU trailing, the offense continued to stall, but the defense came through with back to back sacks of Tyler Huntley from Quintin Wynne and Sutton Smith forcing a punt with 1:02 left in the third.
The Huskies scored in the final stanza with 6:51 left as Andrew Gantz nailed a 27-yard field goal attempt. The drive got to the Utah 9 yard line, but Marcus Childers missed DJ Brown on a pass attempt. The field goal paid off a 42-yard drive in eight plays.
Utah got the points right back as Matt Gay hit from 40 yards to extend the lead with 4:38 left and Hansen sealed the game with his heroics on NIU’s next to last drive.
Tre Harbison led the Huskies with 63 yards on 13 carries while Marcus Childers went 18-33 for 111 yards and the critical interception. NIU hosts Central Michigan next Saturday.