DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — Ross Bowers threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tyrice Ritchie, including a 66-yard fourth-quarter bomb to put the Huskies on top for good, and Thomas Hammock won his coaching debut at his alma mater as Northern Illinois knocked off Illinois State, 24-10 in a season opener Saturday night.
The game marked the 57th meeting between the in-state rivals, but the first since September 9, 2000 when the Huskies pummeled the Redbirds 52-0. Hammock made his first career start at tailback for NIU in that game, rushing for 140 yards on 29 carries.
The teams traded first-half field goals and neither team managed to get into the end zone until Bowers found Ritchie from 22-yards out with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
Illinois State answered on its next series when Brady Davis found Taylor Grimes with a 42-yard touchdown pass to start the fourth quarter. On the first play of the Huskies' next possession, Bowers hit Ritchie on a short pass that turned into a 68-yard go-ahead score. Jalen McKee added a 32-yard interception return of a Davis pass with 2:31 left to set the final score.
Bowers was 20 of 33 for 299 passing yards with an interception. Ritchie finished with three catches for 102 yards. Tre Harbison carried 23 times for 99 yards.
Northern Illinois held the Redbirds to just 51 yards rushing. Davis was 14 of 32 for 187 yards.