SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Tyler Huntley passed for one touchdown and ran for another as No. 13 Utah held Northern Illinois to 69 yards in the second half and beat the Huskies 35-17 on Saturday.
After a shaky first half, the Utah defense clamped down on the Huskies with an effective pass rush, an interception, and a fourth-down stop.
Huntley finished 14 for 19 for 214 yards and ran for 38 yards, without a sack for the second straight game.
Northern Illinois kept pace with Utah in the first two quarters with an effective mix of short passes and QB runs. Bowers had 202 yards passing to eight receivers from a variety of formations as the vaunted Utes defense couldn’t seem to predict where each pass was going.
Last year, the Huskies kept Moss to 66 yards, his lowest rushing total of the season as Utah edged NIU, 17-6, in DeKalb. Moss, tops in the nation for yards after contact the past couple years, carried tacklers on nearly every play as the Huskies keyed on the Utes running back. That opened the field for Huntley and the receiving corps, who only saw 16 pass plays in the season opener against BYU.
After going 5 for 5 and 52 yards passing on NIU’s first scoring drive, Bowers waited for a key block and somersaulted into the end zone over late-arriving Utes tacklers.
New Huskies coach Thomas Hammock suffered his first loss as NIU has never defeated a team ranked as high as Utah. For the second straight season, the Huskies made the Utes sweat, beyond what was expected with the 11 a.m. start and temperatures in the 80s under sunny skies.
Midway through the second quarter, the score was tied at 14-14. Spencer Tears flashed an upside-down `U’ with his hands after catching a 74-yard reception, drawing vociferous boos from the north end zone fans.
Vonte Davis – in at safety for injured Utes safety Julian Blackmon, who later returned and had an interception – underestimated Tears’ speed as the wideout stepped out of his tackle and raced down the NIU sideline. It was NIU’s longest pass play since Tears had an 81-yard scoring reception against San Diego State in 2017.
The Utes, who were the media’s preseason choice to win the Pac-12, had just one penalty and hasn’t turned the ball over this year.
NIU’s Mykelti Williams was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter after his big hit caused a fumble that was negated by the penalty. On the next play, Huntley found Jaylen Dixon for a 14-yard TD pass.