Western Michigan dominated a Northern Illinois team that didn’t have its starting quarterback and didn’t seem interested in getting creative to try to make up for it Tuesday.
The win puts the Broncos at 7-5 and 4-4 in MAC play to end the regular season and all but assures WMU a bowl bid.
The Huskies managed some chunk plays in the running game, but its offense was mostly ineffective in the game allowing the Broncos to pull away.
“I thought we were on them pretty good,” head coach Tim Lester said. “(We) played a lot of man coverage, they run a lot of different sets. I thought the guys did a great job adjusting to them.”
After a first quarter that saw just one score, a one-yard touchdown pass from Kaleb Eleby to Brett Borske for Borske’s first touchdown since Aug. 31, 2019 against Monmouth, the second quarter saw plenty of fireworks.
“It was a great moment,” Eleby said of Borske scoring in his home state. “Very proud of Borske. The one thing that’s guaranteed in the game of football is adversity. He’s been battling injuries and for him to catch that touchdown tonight, I’m pretty sure it made him happy, it was a surreal moment.”
The first big play was a 96-yard run by NIU’s Clint Ratkovich to tie the game 7-7. It was the longest run by a Northern Illinois player since 1934.
WMU responded with a 50-yard touchdown strike from Eleby to Skyy Moore, who was just getting started on a monster game. Moore would make touchdown catches on each of the Broncos’ next two drives and head into halftime with seven catches for 134 yards and three touchdowns.
“The best thing about Skyy is his demeanor never changes,” Lester said. “I gave him a couple things that I thought could make him a better player (at the end of last season) and boom, he went out and did it.”
The Broncos held a 28-7 lead at the break and held NIU to -4 passing yards in the first half. WMU was 4-7 on third downs while the Huskies were 0-4. The Huskies didn’t have Rocky Lombardi available for this game due to injury and didn’t seem to have much of a gameplan prepared for freshman quarterback Ethan Hampton.
Late in the third quarter, Moore caught his fourth touchdown pass of the game to tie a school record for most receiving touchdowns in a single game. He would finish the day with 12 catches for a career-high 206 yards and four touchdowns.
“I feel like I do a good job during the week watching film, game-planning for each corner(back),” Moore said. “I feel like I could explode every week.”
Antario Brown got going on the ground for NIU in the fourth quarter with touchdown runs of 44 and 41 yards, but it was too little and much too late for the Huskies.
Sean Tyler found the end zone in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run that moved him over the 1,000-yard mark this season. Tyler ended the game with 115 yards on 17 carries to reach 1,004 yards on the year.
Eleby had an impressive game through the air, throwing for 338 yards and five touchdowns on 21-26 passing. He eclipsed 3,000 yards on the season with the performance, finishing the regular season with 3115 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“We had a good plan going into the game this week,” Eleby said. “Offensive line did a great job tonight, protection-wise, I thought the running backs ran the ball well and the guys on the perimeter made plays.”
AJ Thomas made eight tackles to lead WMU defensively, adding a tackle for loss and two pass breakups. Ali Fayad had four tackles including a sack, and Ryan Selig had three tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery.
The Broncos also received a great contribution from freshman quarterback Mareyohn Hrabowski, who ran the ball 10 times for 77 yards. Lester said that wide receivers coach Greg Harbaugh Jr. was setting up playcalling this week and wanted to get Hrabowski involved.
“(Hrabowski) only had four plays,” Lester said. “We ran them each a couple times, but he did a really good job of running hard and seeing the holes.”
As a team, the Broncos outgained Northern Illinois 636-291 in total yards. WMU had 29 first downs to just nine for the Huskies, a lot of which came from the difference in third down success, where the Broncos were 9-14 and held NIU to 0-7. WMU had 41:57 in time of possession in the win.
The Broncos now await news on a bowl bid as selections for all bowl games will be finalized by Dec. 5.