Iowa running back Damon Bullock outraces NIU’s Dechane Durante for a 23-yard touchdown run on a third-and-nine late in the fourth quarter. It proved to be the winning score. | Rob Winner~Shaw Media
Updated: October 3, 2012 6:31AM
Northern Illinois was expecting pass.
Clinging to a five-point lead, the Huskies had forced Iowa into a third-and-nine at the NIU 23-yard line late in Saturday’s game at Soldier Field. It seemed like an obvious passing situation.
Iowa caught the Huskies off guard as quarterback James Vandenberg gave the ball to running back Damon Bullock, who scampered to his left and went untouched into the end zone.
NIU had held the lead for the entire second half, and it looked like the Huskies would get that coveted win over a BCS team. Bullock, who rushed for 150 yards, had other plans, and the Hawkeyes would hold on for an 18-17 win.
“A good play call by them,’’ NIU coach Dave Doeren said. ‘‘Obviously we could have executed better. We worked in a pass defense. We knew we were in a zone defense, and we just didn’t hit. It was a defense that worked real well throughout the game for us.”
Kirk Ferentz talked with his staff at halftime about the play that would eventually win the game for the Hawkeyes. Before Bullock’s run, the Hawkeyes had put together drives against NIU but couldn’t punch anything in.
“[Offensive coordinator] Greg [Davis] pulled it out of his pocket at an opportune moment, obviously,” Ferentz said. “It was a huge play because, clearly, up until that point our biggest issue was getting into the end zone We didn’t have much success doing that.”
The Hawkeyes dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 38:42. But when Iowa got scoring opportunities, NIU’s defense held, getting consistent pressure on Vandenberg. The Huskies held Iowa to 268 yards of offense.
Iowa kept having to settle for field goals from kicker Mike Meyer, who kicked four of them, including a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Doeren’s team just couldn’t get anything going on offense. There was Jordan Lynch’s 73-yard touchdown run, but that was the only big play for the Huskies.
NIU had just 68 yards of offense in the second half. Lynch ran the ball well but was just 6-for-16 passing for 54 yards.
“They had a good game plan coming into it,” Lynch said. “We had receivers open, I just tried to make throws, tried to make plays. We had a few drops that hurt us. When it comes down to it, I’ve just got to make the throws.”
Saturday’s game was yet another tough loss against a BCS opponent.
“I thought we prepared the right way,” Doeren said. ‘‘I thought we never flinched in the game “It’s tough. When you put that much on the table, when you invest that much, to come away with a loss like that, it hurts. But these guys are resilient. They’re tough kids. They’re well-coached and they’re fun to be around. I know we’ll come back tomorrow and bounce back. We’ll get right back on track.”