Flashes battle, come up short on Homecoming

Nick Shook

For three quarters, it felt like a title fight between two heavyweight champions. Then the fourth quarter arrived, and Northern Illinois delivered the knockout punch.

The Huskies (5-0, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) outscored Kent State (2-4, 1-2 MAC) 10-0 in the final quarter of the game to finish with a 38-24 victory over the Flashes.

An 11-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Lynch to running back James Spencer came early in the fourth quarter, giving NIU an 11-point lead that proved to be the deciding blow, followed by a 3-point field goal, sealing the deal.

“Tough, hard football game, played by two good football teams,” Flashes head coach Paul Haynes said. “Both sides made a bunch of plays. There’s a lot of things that I guarantee when we look at film that there’s a lot of good things we did today.”

While Lynch generated the most attention during the week, running back Cameron Stingily turned out to be the player of the game. Stingily, a 6-foot-1-inch, 244-pound running back, carried the ball 37 times for 267 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s a good running back,” Haynes said. “He’s a big guy. I think the thing that makes them effective is how they run the ball very well because you have to account for their quarterback.”

Kent State struggled to stop Stingily all day, as multiple defenders repeatedly bounced off him as he rumbled down the field for extra yards. Stingily led the team in yards, and Lynch made plays on third downs with both his arm and his feet.

NIU amassed 698 yards of total offense on 98 plays, going without a conventional huddle on offense for much of the game, and the effect of the quick tempo showed in the fourth quarter when Kent State needed stops the most.

“We knew if they were going to get up to 80, 90 plays, it was going to be tough,” Haynes said. “We had to get off the field on a couple of them, but they made a couple plays.”

NIU opened the game’s scoring with an 11-play, 69-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 17-yard touchdown run by Stingily with 10:37 left in the first.

That lead lasted 11 seconds, as Dri Archer took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a Kent State touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

Most teams kick away from Archer, which NIU chose to do after the kick return touchdown, but Haynes had a feeling that a 4-0 start left the Huskies confident enough to take a chance by kicking to the speedster.

“They are a very good football team who was 4-0, who everybody hyped up,” Haynes said, “so I knew they were going to take a chance to kick it to him, and we made them pay.”

Archer scored the Flashes’ second touchdown of the game on a 66-yard pass from quarterback Colin Reardon to tie the game back up at 14-14 late in the second. NIU answered with a one-yard Stingily touchdown run, and the Flashes were forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal by kicker Anthony Melchiori, cutting the Huskies’ lead to 21-17 heading into halftime.

The Flashes came storming out of the gate in the third quarter, forcing NIU into a three-and-out and scoring on the ensuing drive by way of a 28-yard touchdown pass from Reardon to Tyshon Goode. The completion gave Kent State a 24-21 advantage.

But NIU blanked Kent State after that, and put up 17 more points to take home the victory.

“We just didn’t capitalize when we should have,” said Reardon, who completed 16 of 35 passes for 209 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the loss.

Stingily’s 267 yards shattered his previous career-high of 134 yards, and NIU’s 698 total yards ranked eighth all-time in the history of the MAC. Despite these big numbers, Haynes saw plenty of positives in a game that was competitive for most of the 60 minutes.

“I’m proud of these guys,” Haynes said. “I love this locker room. I love this football team, and we’re going to finish things the right way like champions.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].