Northern Illinois stuns Nebraska 21-17 as Tanner Lee struggles

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Jordan Huff scored the winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and Northern Illinois made two big defensive stops to finish a 21-17 upset of Nebraska on Saturday.

Northern Illinois Huskies defensive tackle William Lee (90) and defensive tackle Ben LeRoy (99) sack Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tanner Lee (13) in the first half at Memorial Stadium.

The Huskies (2-1) became the first non-Power Five conference member or major independent to win in Lincoln since Southern Mississippi knocked off the Cornhuskers in 2004. Northern Illinois is now 4-1 against Big Ten teams under fifth-year coach Rod Carey.

Nebraska had two chances with the ball after Northern Illinois went ahead. But Mycial Allen broke up a pass on fourth-and-7, and Tanner Lee threw his third interception of the game, allowing the Huskies to go into victory formation with 1:36 left.

The Huskies of the Mid-American Conference returned two interceptions for touchdowns to go up 14-0 before Nebraska found its offense.

Nebraska was held scoreless in the first half at home for the first time since 2007, and the Huskers were booed as they headed to the locker room.

On the Huskers’ opening possession, Shawun Lurry jumped in front of De’Mornay Pierson-El on a bubble screen for an interception and ran 87 yards untouched for NIU’s first score. Later in the first quarter, Jawuan Johnson caught a floater after Lee got hit by Drequan Brown and returned it 25 yards to make it 14-0.

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Before the Huskers scored, they also had five three-and-outs, another series messed up by penalties and had a field goal blocked.

Nebraska finally broke through after Northern Illinois’ Jalen Embry muffed a punt at his own 24 and Lee ran in from the 2 to cut the Huskies’ lead to 14-7.

Drew Brown’s 36-yard field goal made it a four-point game entering the fourth quarter, and Lee reached the ball over the goal line to put the Huskers up 17-14. The Huskies then went 75 yards in six plays to take the lead for good.


Northern Illinois: The Huskies came into Memorial Stadium confident they could win, and they capitalized on Nebraska’s inept offense in the first half.

Nebraska: This one will smart. Lee has thrown a national-high seven interceptions in three games, and the offense couldn’t sustain any rhythm.


Northern Illinois closes nonconference play with a trip to San Diego State.

Nebraska opens Big Ten play at home against Rutgers.