No. 15 Maryland Drops Season Opener At NIU
Aug 28, 2003
By JASON STRAIT
DEKALB, Ill. - The ball bounced off the leg of a defender, fluttered into the air and landed softly in the hands of a surprised Randee Drew - a fitting ending to a wild upset.
Northern Illinois stunned No. 15 Maryland 20-13 in overtime on Thursday night, a victory capped when Drew intercepted Scott McBrien's long pass near the end zone.
The pass, intended for Latrez Harrison, hit defensive back Rob Lee in the leg as he fell backward and shot into the air.
Waiting underneath to grab it was Drew.
"Everything was in slow motion," Drew said. "One of them fell and kicked the ball and it came right to me. I guess (they) just put me in the right spot at the right time."
It took the Huskies a moment to realize what had happened. When they did, the entire team rushed the field to celebrate only their third win ever over a ranked team.
Even after the game, coach Joe Novak was still confused.
"Could somebody tell me what happened?" Novak said. "All I know is everyone said we won, so I was going to go along with it."
Northern Illinois got the ball first in overtime and scored three plays later when Josh Haldi threw a 20-yard touchdown to Dan Sheldon. Sheldon caught Haldi's pass at the 15, spun around a defender and raced into the end zone for the game-winning score.
Haldi was 21-for-35 for 266 yards and two TDs.
Northern Illinois had a chance to win the game in regulation but Steve Azar's 43-yard field goal attempt was partially blocked by Madieu Williams with 1.3 seconds left.
The attempt was set up by a roughing the passer call on D'Qwell Jackson, one of several costly penalties against the Terrapins.
Maryland is the highest-ranked opponent Northern Illinois has ever beaten. The Huskies defeated No. 20 Bowling Green last year, and knocked off No. 24 Fresno State in 1990.
It also got the Huskies off to a strong start on a tough non-conference schedule. After a game at Tennessee Tech, Northern Illinois plays at Alabama before hosting Iowa State.
"I told the kids before we played, win, lose or draw, let's enjoy the moment. We're on national TV, we're playing a ranked team," Novak said. "I think they did, and they're enjoying the moment even more now."
The Terrapins couldn't have liked it any less.
Maryland led 13-10 in the fourth quarter when the Huskies reeled off an 18-play, 84-yard drive that ate up 7:58 and tied the game.
Running back Michael Turner, held in check for most of the game, had 37 yards on eight carries during the drive. Haldi completed a 24-yard pass to Keith Perry to set up Azar's 25-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining. That drive also was prolonged by two Maryland penalties, including a late hit on Andrew Smith that negated a Maryland sack deep in Northern Illinois territory.
In all, Maryland was called for nine penalties for 90 yards.
"I thought we did a lot of foolish things that really hurt us. We didn't make the plays that we needed to make," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We had opportunities, we just didn't make them."
Maryland took a 13-10 lead when Domonique Foxworth picked off Haldi at the Huskies' 47 to set up a 50-yard field goal by Nick Novak with 9:10 remaining. Sheldon appeared to slip and fall on the play, clearing the way for Foxworth's diving interception.
Only, Maryland couldn't hold on.
Northern Illinois receiver P.J. Fleck had 12 receptions for 113 yards, and Turner finished with 90 yards rushing on 30 carries.
Maryland scored on its opening drive behind the running of Allen, who got the start for injured running back Bruce Perry.
After a short punt by the Huskies, McBrien found Jafar Williams for gains of 7 and 11 yards. A roughing the passer penalty put Maryland on the Northern Illinois 16, and Allen did the rest.
The sophomore ran the ball four straight times, capping the 58-yard drive with a 1-yard TD plunge for a 7-0 lead.
However, a miscue by Allen helped Northern Illinois put points on the board and swung momentum in the Huskies' favor.
Stretching for extra yards, Allen fumbled at the Maryland 39 and Northern Illinois recovered. The Huskies but gained just 4 yards in three plays, but it was just enough for Azar who kicked a 52-yard field goal - a career long.
"I could kind of see it happening all the way along. The momentum just kept building for Northern Illinois," Friedgen said. "When you get that momentum, it's tough to change that."
The Huskies took the lead with 7:15 remaining in the half on two big plays by Haldi and Turner.
A scrambling Haldi ducked under a Maryland defender in the backfield and hit Fleck for a 35-yard gain. Haldi dumped the ball off to Turner, who ran up the sideline before cutting back across the field for a 41-yard gain to the Terrapins' 5.
Fleck made a diving catch in the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard TD, narrowly dragging his left foot on the turf before falling out of bounds to give the Huskies a 10-7 halftime lead.
The Terrapins tied it at 10 on the opening drive of the second half on a 46-yard field goal by Novak.
McBrien was 12-for-24 for 110 yards and one interception.