N. Illinois fends off E. Illinois in 34-27 win

Rocky Lombardi threw for 192 yards to six different receivers and Northern Illinois used a balanced running attack to hold off Eastern Illinois 34-27 in a season opener Thursday night.

Eastern Illinois scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and threatened at game’s end. Northern Illinois’ Josh Richardson missed a 43-yard field goal to the right with 58 seconds left, killing a chance for a 10-point lead.

Eastern Illinois quarterback Jonah O’Brien then led a six-play, 39-yard drive to get the Panthers to Northern Illinois’ 44-yard line before time ran out. A sophomore, O’Brien threw for 276 yards and three scores and two interceptions.

The Huskies never trailed. They built a 21-6 lead at halftime and extended it to 28-6 when Lombardi threw a 13-yard score to Liam Soraghan to end an eight-play, 64-yard drive with 5:59 left in the third.

O’Brien responded heading scoring drives of 85 and 74 yards, respectively. He threw a 13-yard score to Justin Thomas with 9:58 left and an 8-yarder to Jay Vallie with 2:04 remaining.