Sunday, October 5, 2003

No. 17 Northern Illinois 30, Ohio 23, OT


Huskies sidestep letdown vs. Bobcats

The Associated Press

DEKALB, Ill. - P.J. Fleck caught a tying 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:42 remaining and set up quarterback Josh Haldi's 1-yard score in overtime as No. 17 Northern Illinois survived a scare to beat Ohio 30-23 Saturday.

Fleck had 14 catches for a school-record 234 yards, including the two big plays that helped the Huskies (5-0, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) remain unbeaten.

After Haldi's score on the first overtime possession, Northern Illinois stopped Ohio (1-4, 0-2) on four straight plays to seal the win. The game ended on Kursten Strothman's sack as the Huskies swarmed the field in celebration.

After beating three teams from BCS conferences to open the season, Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak was worried about a letdown in the conference opener against the Bobcats, whose only win was a 17-3 victory over Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State.

It looked as if that would happen until Fleck came through at the end.

On fourth-and-4 with the Huskies trailing 23-16, Fleck beat his defender in the left side of the end zone and just barely dragged his right foot in bounds. He had five receptions for 52 yards during the drive that covered 80 yards in 12 plays.

Ohio had taken the seven-point lead with 10:55 to go on a 3-yard run by Ray Huston. The score was set up by a 27-yard pass from Ryan Hawk to Adam Porter, and the defense nearly made it stick.

Haldi finished 26-of-46 for 310 yards with one touchdown rushing and two passing.




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