DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois backup tailback Garrett Wolfe had carried the ball once in the first half of last night's game against Bowling Green. His one carry resulted in a two-yard loss.
But that changed dramatically in the second half.
Wolfe ran around, through and past a befuddled Falcons defense after the break, finishing with a career-high 202 yards and three touchdowns on 31 runs to carry the Huskies to a 34-17 victory.
The MAC opener for both schools, played in front of a national television audience as well as a crowd of 25,819 at Huskie Stadium, left BG 1-2 on the season. Northern Illinois evened its record at 2-2.
"You think he's kind of small and easy to bring down, but he's really low to the field and he kept going," BG senior linebacker Jovon Burkes said of Wolfe. "They had a great scheme, with the back running away from the pulling guard. We need to be more poised and pick up things like that."
But the Falcons didn't as Wolfe scored on runs of 42, 21, and 8 yards to hand Bowling Green its first loss against an unranked team since losing to Toledo at the Glass Bowl in the final game of the 2002 season.
"We were dominated in every phase of this football game," said BG coach Gregg Brandon. "That was a good old fashion country butt-whipping. [Northern Illinois] coach [Joe] Novak and his team took it to us, and I've got no answers. We were dominated, and that's disappointing."
The Huskies took the opening kickoff of the second half, and on their first play quarterback Phil Horvath connected on a 41-yard pass to Dan Sheldon. The Falcons finally stopped Northern Illinois on the 8, and Chris Nendick kicked a 25-yard field goal.
After Bowling Green was forced to punt on its next possession, the Huskies used two big plays to score a touchdown that made the score 17-7. Facing a 3rd-and-14 on its own 32, Horvath hit Sam Hurd for 26 yards and a first down. On the next play Wolfe raced 42 yards for the touchdown that made the score 17-7.
The Falcons countered by driving to the shadow of the Northern Illinois goal line. But back-to-back penalties - an illegal-formation call followed by a delay of game - pushed BG back to its 11, and three straight incompletions forced the Falcons to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham.
"There's absolutely no excuse for that," Brandon said of the back-to-back penalties. "We should have had seven points down there."
Wolfe then carried the Huskies on their next two possessions. He carried the ball for 44 yards and scored on a 21-yard run with 1:32 left in the third quarters, then lugged the ball 14 times for 75 yards, including the final eight for a touchdown with 6:07 to play in the final quarter that sealed the victory.
"When it comes down to smash-mouth football, it's line up your best against my best and stop them," said Burkes, who made nine tackles. "They did that today, and we couldn't stop them."
After gaining just 75 yards on 22 first-half rushes, Wolfe and the Huskies gaines 217 yards on 32 carries in the second half.
"We were in position, we just didn't tackle," Brandon said. "Give [Wolfe] his props - he's a little scatback. He's low to the ground and quick. But there's no excuse for not tackling. When you don't tackle a quality back like that, you're going to have problems."
And while the Bowling Green offense finished with 417 yards, including 275 through the air, 127 of those yards game in the final quarter with the game out of reach.
"At times we moved the ball at will, but we basically killed ourselves. We were our own worst enemy," Falcons quarterback Omar Jacobs said. "We got into the red zone, but penalties backed us up. They are a great defense, but we killed ourselves. To be down there after a good drive, then to backed up on back-to-back plays, that took a little wind out of our sails."
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