Northern Illinois Downs EIU, 43-39

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Published on September 23 2013 6:20 pm
Last Updated on September 23 2013 6:20 pm
Written by Millie Lange

DEKALB, Ill. – On a night in which Jimmy Garoppolo tied both the Eastern Illinois and Ohio Valley Conference record for career touchdown passes, the Panthers ran out of time during a 43-39 loss at Northern Illinois.

The Panthers, ranked No. 8 in the latest FCS polls, finished the non-conference portion of their schedule at 3-1.  NIU improved to 3-0 as the Huskies were the fourth team also listed in this week’s Associated Press poll (No. 29 overall).  It was NIU’s 22nd consecutive home win the longest streak in the FBS.

After Mathew Sims put NIU up 36-33 with 11:24 to play in the game with a 37-yard field goal, EIU answered.  Shepard Little ripped off a 26-yard run to put the Panthers inside the ten.  Jimmy Garoppolo then hit Erik Lora for a 10-yard strike to put EIU up 39-36 as the extra point was missed.  It was Garoppolo’s sixth touchdown pass of the day as he tied the EIU and OVC record of 85 held by Tony Romo.  Garoppolo was 34-of-49 for 450 yards.

NIU scored quickly to regain the lead as Keith Harris scored on a short 8-yard run to put NIU back in front.  The Panthers were stalled on the next drive by several penalties and surrendered the ball back to NIU which ran out the clock in front of a sellout crowd.

EIU drove down the field on its first possession as Garoppolo hit Lora on a 14-yard fade in the end zone.  EIU went for two and missed the conversion to lead 6-0.

The Panthers offense kept the ball as they recovered an onside kick as LeQuince McCall came out of the pile with the loose football.  Garoppolo struck again on the first play hitting Adam Drake for a 43-yard touchdown pass.  EIU led 13-0 with 12:08 to play.

EIU’s defense then held NIU and quarterback Jordan Lynch to a three and out.  EIU drove to score its third touchdown of the first half as Garoppolo hit Keiondre Gober from 13-yards out to put EIU up 20-0 with 7:36 to play in the opening quarter.  Garoppolo was 13-of-16 for 180 yards with three touchdowns on the first three drives including two fourth down conversions.

NIU scored on its second offensive drive as Cameron Stingily plunged over from five yards.  The extra point failed hitting the post as EIU led 20-6 with 5:17 left in the first quarter.  NIU picked off a long fourth down pass by Garoppolo inside the ten yard line late in the first quarter.  The Huskies converted that turnover into another short Stingily touchdown run to open the second quarter cutting EIU’s lead to 20-13 with 14:08 left in the half.

Jourdan Wickliffe seemed to turn the momentum in EIU’s favor with an interception in the red zone.  NIU had the momentum swing back in their direction after a failed fake punt attempt by EIU gave the Huskies the ball in EIU territory.  NIU tied the game at 20-20 on a Jordan Lynch touchdowns pass to Luke Eakes with 9:18 left in the first half.

The Huskies took their first lead of the game with five seconds left in the half as Matthew Sims knocked home an 18-yard field goal to put NIU up 23-20 at the half.

The two teams traded turnovers to open the second half.  NIU converted its turnover chance resulting in a Keith Harris 9-yard touchdown run which put the Huskies up 30-20 with 10:17 to play in the third.  EIU answered on the next drive ending a nearly 30-minute scoreless stretch as Garoppolo found Lora for the second time on a 33-yard strike, Garoppolo’s fourth touchdown pass of the day.  Lora finished the day with 14 catches for 198 yards and three scores.

EIU’s defense kept NIU within a touchdown as they held inside the five yard line.  Sims knocked home a 33-yard field goal to put NIU up 33-26 with 2:50 left in the third.  Garoppolo tied the game with his fifth touchdown pass of the day, a 13-yard strike to Adam Drake.  Drake had 8 catches for 137 yards as EIU knotted the game at 33-33 with 14:51 to play.

NIU’s Heisman candidate Lynch passed for 235 yards and rushed for 189.  Stingily added 134 yards on the ground as NIU had 602 yards of total offense.  EIU finished with 577 yards of total offense.

Wickliffe led EIU with 16 tackles.  Kamu Grugier-Hill added 11 tackles with one tackle for loss.  Michael Santacaterina led NIU’s defense with 15 tackles.

Eastern Illinois opens defense of its Ohio Valley Conference Championship on Sept. 28 at home against Eastern Kentucky.  Kickoff is 1:30 p.m. at O’Brien Field with the game televised on ESPN3.  Game tickets are available by calling 217-581-2106 or online at www.eiupanthertickets.com
Eastern Illinois senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was named the Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the third consecutive week as the Panthers lost in a shootout on Saturday night to last year’s Orange Bowl participant Northern Illinois.

Garoppolo tied the OVC and EIU career record for touchdown passes at 85 joining former Panthers signal caller Tony Romo in that category on both lists.  Garoppolo had six touchdown passes as he passed for 450 yards on 34-of-49 passing.  He was red hot to open the game hitting 13-of-16 passes for 180 yards with three touchdown passes on EIU’s first three possessions as the Panthers built a 20-0 lead.

Garoppolo leads the FCS ranks in passing and total offense as the Panthers rank first in the nation in total offense.  For the year Garoppolo has 20 touchdown passes with only three interceptions.  He has passed for 1,731 yards this season.  Garoppolo needs 153 passing yards to become the OVC’s career leader in passing.  He needs 163 yards to reach the 10,000 mark for his career.

The Panthers ranked number eight in last week’s FCS rankings begin defense of their OVC Championship on Saturday with the conference opener against Eastern Kentucky.  Kickoff is 1:30 p.m. for the Family Weekend game at O’Brien Field.  For tickets call 217-581-2106 or online at www.eiupanthertickets.com