KENT: For a second-string running back — and a converted linebacker no less — Cameron Stingily looked an awful lot like an All-American.
Stingily, inserted into the starting lineup following a preseason foot injury to Akeem Daniels, led two-time Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois to a 38-24 victory over host Kent State on Saturday, putting a bigger damper on the homecoming festivities than the rain that peppered Dix Stadium — heavy at times — intermittently throughout the day.
The loss dropped the Golden Flashes to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the MAC East Division. The Huskies (5-0, 1-0) steamrolled their way to their 18th consecutive conference victory.
Unleashing a relentless offense led by NIU-proclaimed Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Jordan Lynch, and the turf-eating running of the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Stingily, the Huskies rallied from a three-point deficit in the third quarter by scoring the game’s final 17 points and spiking the Flashes’ bid for an upset of the team ranked 23d in the USA Today coaches poll.
Stingily, a redshirt junior from Romeoville, Ill., who was celebrating his 22nd birthday, rushed for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. That was 119 yards more than the Flashes’ entire six-man crew combined. KSU was led by Trayion Durham’s 72 yards on 14 carries.
“He’s a good back,” KSU coach Paul Haynes said of Stingily, who opened the scoring with a 17-yard run on NIU’s first possession and added another on a 1-yard plunge over right tackle in the second quarter that snapped a 14-14 tie. “What makes him even more effective is the quarterback and two good wide receivers. You just can’t sit there and concentrate on one guy. They have so many playmakers to get the job done.”
The 266-yard effort surprised Stingily, who said he didn’t expect to be such a factor.
“I thought my teammates were lying,” he said. “It’s my birthday so I wanted to celebrate with a win and play as best I could. I wasn’t expecting to touch the ball that much and I couldn’t imagine gaining over 260 yards.”
Lynch, who led NIU to a spot in the Orange Bowl last season against Florida State, added to the Huskies’ offense by completing 21-of-35 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns and had two passes intercepted. He also picked up 94 yards on the ground on 14 attempts.
“Lynch did not kill us today,” Haynes said.
But he helped the Huskies roll up a ghastly 698 yards on 98 plays. They had the ball almost 12 minutes longer than the Flashes and converted 10-of-17 third-down plays to 7-of-16 for KSU. They converted 6-of-9 third downs in the second half.
Still, the Flashes were in the game until a little more than 13 minutes remained when Lynch completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to running back James Spencer that produced an 11-point lead following the extra point by Matthew Sims.
Dangerous Dri Archer, who returned to the KSU lineup last week after suffering an ankle injury in the season-opening victory over Liberty, stunned the Huskies with a 100-yard kickoff return — it was actually about 103 yards but the NCAA does not recognize plays more than 100 yards — following NIU’s first touchdown.
Archer, who led the nation with three kickoff returns for touchdowns last year, went untouched in tying the score.
“We were prepared for that all week,” he said. “We had a great return set up and the other 10 guys made perfect blocks.”
Archer also caught a 66-yard scoring pass from Colin Reardon in the second quarter. He finished with four receptions for 80 yards. Chris Humphrey led the team with six catches for 60 yards.
Reardon, who completed 16-of-35 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, staked the Flashes to 24-21 lead with 11:37 left in the third when he combined with Tyshon Goode on a 28-yard scoring play. Goode dropped what appeared to be a certain touchdown earlier in the game but redeemed himself with his scoring catch.