Football: NIU dodges bullet, Toledo next

NIU Dodges Bullet: Northern Illinois almost got caught looking ahead to its Tuesday, Nov. 9, Mid-American Conference showdown with the Toledo Rockets on national TV (ESPN2). The Huskies needed overtime Oct. 30 to top lowly Ball State (1-8, 1-5 MAC) 38-31 on Garrett Wolfe’s 9-yard TD run.

Ball State tied the game with 37 seconds left in regulation on a 1-yard TD run by Joey Lynch. After Wolfe scored the go-ahead touchdown on the third play of overtime, Lynch led the Cardinals to the Huskies’ four before a fourth-down pass to Dante Ridgeway was incomplete, ending the game.

The Huskies now are 7-2, 6-0 in the MAC, with a six-game winning streak. They don’t play again Nov. 9. They then close their season Nov. 20 at Eastern Michigan. Toledo, 6-2 with a six-game winning streak, didn’t play last weekend. Instead, the Rockets were to face Miami of Ohio Tuesday night, Nov. 2, before travelling to NIU. Toledo ends its season with another Tuesday night game, Nov. 23, against Bowling Green.

NIU’s Wolfe rushed for 280 yards and three TDs, including an 84-yard run late in the third period. Josh Haldi, who threw for a career-high 333 yards and six touchdowns in a 59-38 win over Western Michigan Oct. 23, attempted only 18 passes and completed seven for 142 yards for the Huskies.

One of his completions was a 78-yarder to Dan Sheldon for a TD. Sheldon had only one other catch and finished with 109 yards receiving.

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Illini Lose Again: How much longer does the losing go on in Champaign? The Illini suffered their 14th straight Big Ten loss Oct. 27, bowing to No. 23 Iowa 23-13 in Memorial Stadium.

The loss—sixth straight of the season—ruined Illinois’ homecoming and dropped Ron Turner’s squad to 2-7, 0-6 in the Big Ten. Iowa (6-2, 4-1), meanwhile, won its fourth straight game and became eligible for a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season.

What’s a bowl game? That’s where you get to go when you play football like the “big boys” do.

Iowa’s defense, which came into the game ranked fourth in the nation against the run, held the Illini to just 58 yards rushing on 25 attempts. The Hawkeyes intercepted Illinois quarterback Brad Bower once, recovered a fumble and held the Illini to 268 total yards.

The Hawkeyes gained 319 total yards against a defense ranked 107th nationally coming into the game.

Said Turner: “When we have opportunities and need to make plays, whether it’s defense, special teams or offense, we’re not doing it. It’s not a matter of anything else, just not making plays when we needed them, and a lot of that has to do with confidence.”

What may be Illinois’ last chance for a Big Ten victory this season comes Nov. 6 when the Illini host Indiana. They close out their season Nov. 20 at Northwestern after getting a week off to prepare for the Wildcats. Illinois wins this year were over Florida A&M and Western Michigan.

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Wildcats Get It Done: Noah Herron ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 38 seconds left to lift Northwestern to a 13-10 upset of No. 17 Purdue Oct. 27, its second victory over a top 25 team this year.

Wildcat coach Randy Walker was on the sidelines for the homecoming game after spending two days in the hospital earlier in the week with a heart ailment.

It was Northwestern’s first victory over Purdue since 1997. The Boilermakers (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) had been the only conference team Northwestern (4-4, 3-2) hadn’t beaten since Walker became coach in 1999. It was the third straight loss for Purdue, which started the season 5-0.

On Oct. 2, Northwestern defeated No. 7 Ohio State 33-27 in overtime. Herron’s 1-yard touchdown run was the decisive score in that game, which also was played in Evanston.

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Rockford Falls: The Rockford College football team saw its modest two-year winning streak in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, come to an end Oct. 26, losing to Northwestern College of St. Paul, Minn., 28-14.

The Regents (6-3, 5-2 UMAC) were toppled by the Eagles in the battle of No. 2 seeds in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference’s Dome Day tournament. Rockford had won in its first two Dome Day trips, including last year over Northwestern 41-14, also in the second-place game.

Northwestern (6-3, 6-1 UMAC) built up a 28-0 advantage early in the fourth period. Quarterback Bobby Miller was 11 of 22 passing for 230 yards and three TDs, including an 88-yard strike to Steven Boggess and a 45-yard play to Josh Lundeen. Northwestern piled up 472 yards of offense, including 242 on the ground. Paul Gibbs had 118 yards on 16 carries for Northwestern.

Rockford put together a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives. Anthony Risa scored on a 1-yard run to get the Regents on the board and Travis Stocker connected with Steve McDoniel for a 14-yard touchdown. John Feehan led the Regents with 20 carries for 74 yards.

Rockford will have Senior Citizens Day on Seniors Day for its season finale Saturday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m. vs. Thomas More College of Kentucky. Senior citizens 60 and older will be admitted free. Plus seniors on the football team will be honored.

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RVC Ends at 3-7: Rock Valley College ended its season at 3-7, 2-6 in the N4C Conference after losing to Grand Rapids Community College 42-21 in the Michigan city Oct. 30. Grand Rapids beat RVC 41-6 in the Aug. 28 season opener in Rockford.

With the win, Grand Rapids (9-1, 7-1) is guaranteed at least a share of the N4C title.

This is the final year for the current N4C alignment. Beginning next season, the N4C and the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference will merge into one conference consisting of Rock Valley, College of DuPage, Harper College, Joliet Junior College, Grand Rapids Community College, North Iowa Area Community College, Iowa Central College, Ellsworth College and the North Dakota State College of Science.

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Beloit Bows to Ripon: Beloit College fell to 3-5 on the season and 2-5 in the Midwest Conference, losing at Ripon 20-13 Oct. 30. Tom DePietro scored on a 2-yard run with 4:36 left to give Ripon the win.

DePietro also scored from 1 yard out in the first quarter before Nate Skelton gave Beloit a 13-7 halftime lead with TD runs of 1 and 23 yards. Ripon (3-5, 3-5) tied it in the third on Bob Faulds’ 28-yard pass to Jacob Banks.

The Bucs, who got 88 yards on 21 carries from Lee Rankinen, have two home games left—Nov. 6 vs. Illinois College and Nov. 13 vs. Grinnell College.

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