NIU has 18 TFLs in romp over Ball State

Chicago Sun-Times - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL -

Mar­cus Childers threw a ca­reer­high four touch­down passes and Jack­son Abresch scored twice on blocked punts to help North­ern Illi­nois beat vis­it­ing Ball State 63- 17 on Thurs­day night in DeKalb.

Sut­ton Smith, who came in lead­ing the FBS with 20 tack­les for losses this sea­son, had two Thurs­day to set the NIU sin­gle- sea­son record. The Huskies ( 7- 3, 5- 1 Mid- Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence) fin­ished the game with a school- record 18 tack­les for loss ( the most in an FBS game this sea­son), in­clud­ing a sea­son- high- ty­ing seven sacks.

“We’re very happy with the win, all three phases ex­e­cuted on a high­level, and it’s re­ally hard to find fault at dif­fer­ent times given the con­di­tions,’’ NIU coach Rod Carey said. ‘‘ It is re­ally hard to find a lot of flaws, so [ I’m] re­ally happy for the guys.”

Childers threw touch­down passes to Shane Wi­mann and Jor­dan Huff be­fore Trayshon Foster blocked a punt which Jack­son Abresch re­turned 13 yards for a score to make it 21- 7 at the end of the first quar­ter.

“When we got the punt block to go up 21- 7, I thought that was a big mo­men­tum shift,” Carey said. “I thought we rode that mo­men­tum and kept it go­ing.”

Jauan Wes­ley blocked an­other Ball State punt, from in­side its own end zone, and Abresch cov­ered it to cap the scor­ing with 4: 18 to play. The Huskies have blocked four punts in their last three games.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my team­mates be­cause in both in­stances, they blocked it and I was in the right spot,” Abresch said. “This is the third week we’ve had a blocked punt, the third week in a row. We knew it was go­ing to be there; it was good ex­e­cu­tion by the whole unit.”

Drew Plitt, Ball State’s fourth­string quar­ter­back, made his sec­ond ca­reer start and com­pleted 9 of 14 passes for 89 yards and a score be­fore be­ing re­placed by Jack Mi­las at half­time.

NIU has won nine in a row against the Car­di­nals ( 2- 8, 0- 6).

It was the most points scored by NIU since a 63- 19 vic­tory over UMass on Nov. 2, 2013.

North Carolina 34, Pitts­burgh 31

An­thony Ratliff- Wil­liams re­turned the open­ing kick­off for a touch­down, threw for an­other on a trick play and hauled in the even­tual go- ahead score mid­way through the fourth quar­ter to lift the vis­it­ing Tar Heels.

Ratliff- Wil­liams ac­counted for 230 all- pur­pose yards for the Tar Heels ( 2- 8, 1- 6 At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence), who ended a six- game los­ing streak by ral­ly­ing re­peat­edly against the Pan­thers. Nathan El­liott com­pleted 20 of 31 passes for 235 yards and two scores in his first start for North Carolina, which beat the Pan­thers for the fifth straight time thanks to Ratlif­fWil­liams’ play­mak­ing.

Dar­rin Hall ran for 121 yards and four scores for Pitt ( 4- 6, 2- 4), which has games re­main­ing against No. 17 Vir­ginia Tech and No. 7 Mi­ami.

Wis­con­sin WR done for sea­son

Wis­con­sin re­ceiver Quin­tez Ce­phus will miss the rest of the sea­son be­cause of an in­jured right leg. He leads the Badgers with 501 re­ceiv­ing yards and six touch­down catches. Wis­con­sin also re­mains with­out se­nior wide­out Jazz Peavy be­cause of a right leg in­jury. Sopho­more A. J. Tay­lor and fresh­men Danny Davis and Ken­dric Pryor are ex­pected to see most of the ac­tion at re­ceiver when the No. 8 Badgers host No. 20 Iowa on Satur­day.

UNC re­ceiver An­thony Ratliff- Wil­liams catches the go- ahead touch­down in the fourth quar­ter against Pitts­burgh. | KEITH SRAKOCIC/ AP

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