Quarterback Daniel Santacaterina (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) led the Huskies on six scoring drives and threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns on 23-34 passing to lead the Huskies to their first win of the season as NIU improved to 1-1.
After a three and out on the opening drive, the Huskie sophomore led NIU on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive on the Huskies' second possession. Santacaterina capped the drive by connecting with Spencer Tears, who made an incredible over-the-shoulder catch, on a 39-yard touchdown pass to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Eastern Illinois (1-1), responded with a 20-yard field goal by Nick Wilson, capitalizing on a muffed punt by the Huskies which gave the Panthers the ball on the NIU 29-yard line.
Following a three-and-out by the Huskies on their fourth possession, Mycial Allen (Detroit, Mich./King) intercepted a Mitch Kimble pass on the EIU 28 and returned it 17 yards to set up the Huskies' second score of the game, a four-yard touchdown run by Marcus Jones, to extend NIU's advantage to 14-3 with 14:51 left in the half and spark a 24-point second quarter outburst by the Huskies.
Santacaterina hit Christian Blake (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./Cardinal Gibbons) for his second touchdown pass of the game on an 18-yard pass with 5:11 left in the half. A Mykelti Williams (Indianapolis, Ind./Notre Dame/Iowa Western) interception on EIU's ensuing possession gave the Huskies a short field as NIU took over at the Panther 30-yard line. Jones scored his second touchdown of the game five plays later on a one-yard run to give NIU a 28-3 lead with 3:05 left in the half.
Jones finished the day with 63 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 12 carries and had one reception for eight yards.
After NIU used its timeouts and forced another EIU punt, the Huskies executed the two-minute drill, driving 55 yards in six plays and 1:20. Christian Hagan (Omaha, Neb./Westside) hit a 20-yard field with under a minute left and the Huskies went into the break with a 31-3 advantage.
The Huskie defense was dominant in the first half, limiting the Panthers to 58 yards of total offense while forcing two turnovers, which the Huskie offense turned into two touchdowns.
Santacaterina and the Huskies added one more touchdown late in the third quarter when he found tight end Shane Wimann (Wisconsin Dells, Wis./Wisconsin Dells) for a one-yard touchdown pass to give NIU a 38-3 lead.
Linebacker Jawuan Johnson (East St. Louis, Mo./New Boston [Texas]) quietly had a strong game for the Huskies, tallying seven tackles, including one-and-a-half tackles and a forced fumble. Antonio Jones-Davis (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach) led the way for NIU tallying a game-high eight tackles.