KENT, Ohio – Kent State couldn't apply the breaks to the power running of Cameron Stingily during a 38-24 loss to Northern Illinois in Saturday's rematch of last year's Mid-American Conference Championship Game.
Stingliy barged his way through the Golden Flashes' defense for a career-high 266 yards on 37 attempts, including touchdown runs of 17 yards in the first quarter and 1 yard in the second quarter. The big day for the converted linebacker, who was the presumptive backup to the injured Akeem Daniels prior to the season, helped the Huskies out-gain Kent State 454-to-147 on the ground.
In all, Northern Illinois offense enjoyed the eighth best day by an offense Mid-American Conference history with 698 yards on 98 plays compared to just 392 on 61 plays for Kent State. And still, the Golden Flashes had a chance late in the fourth quarter.
"It was a tough, hard football game played by two good football teams," said Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. "Both sides made a bunch of plays … We knew if they were going to get up to 80 or 90 plays it was going to be tough. They made some plays, but still even at the end we were down by just 14."
Kent State enjoyed a brief 24-21 lead after Colin Reardon hit Tyshon Goode for a 28-yard touchdown pass with 11:37 to play in the third quarter. But Northern Illinois put the game away with 17 unanswered points the rest of the way.
A bid to cut the Huskies' lead to just one possession ended with 4:17 to play when a fourth-down pass by Reardon was tipped before falling incomplete at the Northern Illinois 9-yard line.
Dri Archer kept Kent State close in the first half, answering Stingliy's game-opening touchdown by tying a school record on a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 10:25 to play in the first quarter. He added a 66-yard touchdown catch of a perfect throw from Reardon in the second quarter, deadlocking the game again at 14-14.
Backup running-back James Spencer put Northern Illinois ahead for good with a 22-yard touchdown run at 7:25 mark of the third quarter.
The Huskies added to their lead when star quarterback Jordan Lynch tacked on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Spencer with 13:08 to play. A 31-yard field goal by Matthew Sims closed the scoring.
Lynch finished with 244 yards on 24-for-35 passing, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to Da'Ron Brown midway through the second quarter. He also ran for 94 yards on 14 attempts.
"That's a good football team, and that's a good offense," said Haynes. "They move the ball on a lot of people. There were times when we did a good job of stopping them, but there were also times when we needed to get off of the field on third down. They'd make a play a play and we didn't.
"The thing that makes them effective is the fact that you have to account for the quarterback," said Haynes. "We'd make a couple of plays on Stingily, and then Lynch runs down the middle of the field. Jordan Lynch is a great player, but Jordan Lynch didn't kill us today."
Poor tackling by Kent State's defense prolonged the difficult day.
"(Stingily) is a really good player," said Wollet. "Him being a big back, that's part of the reason we were worn down a little bit. But I love the way we were still fighting to the end."
Kent State's offense was led by Trayion Durham, who ran for 72 yards on 14 attempts. Reardon threw for 209 yards on 16-for-25 passing, including one interception. Archer finished with 80 yards on four catches.
The Golden Flashes (2-4, 1-2) will travel to Ball State on Oct. 12 while Northern Illinois (5-0, 1-0) will host Akron.
Senior Dri Archer scored his 31st and 32nd career touchdowns, passing Eugene Jarvis for fifth place among Kent State's career leaders. His 100-yard return tied Norman Warren (1979) for the longest in Kent State history and was his fourth career kick return for a touchdown. All four of Archer's returns for touchdowns have been for 98 or more yards. Archer had 80-yards receiving against NIU for the second time in his career.
Redshirt freshman Colin Reardon's 66-yard touchdown pass to Archer was Kent State's longest play from scrimmage this season. Reardon threw his seventh and eight TD passes of the season. Reardon had a career-high 209 yards passing.
Senior Luke Wollet made his 12th career interception, tying for seventh place among Kent State career leaders. It was also his second pick in as many games. Wollet had a career-high 15 tackles.
Senior Tyshon Goode made his 13th career touchdown grab, tying him for third among Kent State's career leader.
Malcolm Pannell made his first career interception.
Sophomores Keenan Stalls and Jordan Italiano each had career-highs of 13 tackles.
Junior Trayion Durham combined for 104 yards of offense (72 rush, 34 rec).
Junior Chris Humphrey matched a career-high of six catches.
NIU's missed field goal in the first quarter was the first by a Kent State opponent this season.
Northern Illinois Running back Cameron Stingily
On 267 rushing yards:
"I thought my teammates were lying, it's my birthday so I wanted to celebrate with a win and play as best as I could. I wasn't expecting to touch the ball that much and I couldn't of imagine gaining over 260 yards."
On first MAC win:
"It feels good, we were just trying to go 1-0 in conference play and we accomplished that."
"Almost every bus trip I thought about giving up because I was on the scout team for two years, that's tough when you think you're never going to be able to play. My teammates told me they were proud of me, considering how far I've come and since there were times where I seriously thought about quitting."
On offensive line play:
"I think our offensive line has played well every game, it was up to me to give them the extra motivation."
On reading plays:
"All week in practice coach told me to read my keys and trust our o-line and good things are going to happen. I think I did a good job of that today and I trusted them and I ended up with over 260 yards. Now I owe the offensive line I-Hop."
Northern Illinois Coach Rod Carey
On running game:
"This performance doesn't shock me, because the way he's been practicing and the way he's been going about things. This doesn't validate in my mind that he's a good back, am I happy for him, of course, on his birthday, of course I'm happy for him. We were able to give him so many carries because we needed to."
On offensive line:
The o-line did a great job, we knew we had to neutralize Nix and I thought we did a good job of that. I didn't see him getting involved in too many TFLs."
On playing against Dri Archer:
We tried to kick away from, we should have done it earlier and he ended up burning us by taking one to the end-zone."
On the win:
"You have a proud team here at Kent, I'm glad we're done with them and that we are on the other side because they are a fine football team. Any time you go on the road in the MAC and come away with a win, it does a lot for your football team."
Northern Illinois quarterback:
On offensive production:
"We knew we could run the ball downhill and if we did that successfully that would lead to some play action passes, and we took advantage of that."
On offensive line:
"They are playing awesome, the push they are getting to the second level is incredible. Near the end of the game Kent was putting 8 or 9 guys in the box and we were still able to break off big runs."
Importance of win:
"Any time you go on the road and beat a MAC school and pick up a win, it goes a long way for your team. We know we have a target on our back and teams are gunning for us. It feels good to pick up a conference win."