DEKALB — Eastern Illinois had its chances to gain an upper hand against Northern Illinois in the first quarter, but the Panthers squandered each one of those opportunities.
That opened the door for NIU and the Huskies took full advantage. After gaining a 7-3 advantage in the first quarter, NIU blew the game open in the second with 24 answered points. The Huskies went on to win the game 38-10.
“The statement that we made today is we have to get a lot better as a football team if we are going to win many games,” EIU coach Kim Dameron said. “(Northern Illinois) really played well, but them playing well was extenuated by the fact that we did not. That was something we have to look at.”
EIU had the chance to score first but had a field goal waved off because of a penalty. NIU got on the board first, but it was because of a 39-yard completion on fourth-and-19. The Panthers had a chance to respond with the ball at the NIU 4-yard line but had to settle for a field goal.
From there, the opportunities for EIU dried up and NIU took control of the game.
“We had chances to make a couple of plays and we didn’t make them,” Dameron said. “It was very frustrating early because I really felt like we were in the game and we’re going pretty good. I was okay with how the thing was going at the time. We were kind of back and forth and we squandered too many opportunities.”
EIU's first opportunity came in its first possession when Nick Wilson lined up for a 37-yard field goal. The Charleston graduate made the attempt, but it was called off because of an illegal formation. Instead of a 42-yard field goal, EIU tried to go for it on fourth down and were unsuccessful.
The Huskies drove into EIU territory in the next possession and faced 4th and 19. NIU went for it and Daniel Santacaterina hit Spencer Tears for a 39-yard touchdown.
EIU was forced to punt in the ensuing possession, but Ben Bergeson recovered a muffed punt to put the Panthers at NIU's 29-yard line. EIU drove down to the 4-yard line but had to settle for a field goal to make it 7-3 with 2:51 left in the quarter.
Then everything started to go downhill, especially when the second quarter started. Marcus Jones scored on a 4-yard run to start a 24-point second quarter for the Huskies.
Later in the quarter, NIU scored on an 18-yard pass from Santacaterina to Christian Blake for a 21-3 lead. Then with 3:05 left in the half, Jones scored on a 1-yard run. The Huskies added a 20-yard field goal by Christian Hagan with 52 seconds left and went into halftime with a 31-3 lead.
NIU outgained EIU 206 to 11 in the second quarter.
"We prepared all week and they exactly what we thought they would, even when we made adjustments," EIU linebacker Joe Caputo said. "Eleven people have to do their job and we got beat a few times. At the end of the day, they got 38 points. It doesn't matter where they got the ball to start, we have to make stops."
Third-down conversions hurt EIU on both sides of the ball. The Panthers only converted 5-of-17 third downs on offense, and NIU converted 10-of-17 third downs.
"We have to figure out what we are doing on third down," Dameron said. "Maybe we have to play better on first and second down so we don't get in those third-down situations. I felt like we didn't tackle extremely well, and they were able to pick up first downs because of that. We've got to look at what we are doing and who we are doing it with because we have a week to get it right."
The Huskies extended the lead to 38-3 with 1:34 left in the third quarter when Santacaterina hit Shane Wimann for a 1-yard touchdown pass.
EIU’s only touchdown of the game came in the fourth quarter. Scotty Gilkey, Jr. saw time as quarterback, and the redshirt freshman scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge to make it 38-10.