Camellia Bowl: Northern Illinois 21, Arkansas State 19

College Football

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Rocky Lombardi passed and ran for a touchdown and Northern Illinois held on for a 21-19 victory over Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl when the Red Wolves couldn’t convert a late two-point pass.

Antario Brown ran for 132 yards for the Huskies (7-6), who won six of their final eight games. Neither team scored in the second half until Jaylen Raynor’s 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:14 left to Corey Rucker, who broke a tackle at about the 6. Raynor’s potential tying two-point pass sailed out of the end zone.

Arkansas State (6-7) couldn’t convert the onside kick, getting called for offsides on the first of two attempts to prompt a heated protest from coach Butch Jones.

The 25-year-old Lombardi completed his seventh and final college season by going 18 of 29 for 200 yards despite a pair of interceptions. He spent four years at Michigan State and three at Northern Illinois, receiving a medical redshirt last season.

Grayson Barnes had 105 yards and a score on five catches. Brown ran 25 times.

Arkansas State’s Raynor, the Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year, matched his older counterpart. Raynor was 16-of-30 passing for 250 yards with a pair of TDs and an interception. Rucker had five catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

The game was a matchup of two of the seven teams that made bowls after winning three or fewer games in 2022.


Arkansas State finished with a losing record but doubled last season’s win total.

Northern Illinois wasn’t successful on every gamble, opening with a failed two-point attempt and failing on an onside kick. But the Huskies held onto the ball for more than 40 minutes.

Dec. 23, 2023