BOSTON -- — Let the Atlantic Coast Conference keep adding teams.
Northern Illinois will just keep beating them.
Rocky Lombardi scored on a 1-yard, quick-snap quarterback sneak to end the first overtime and the Huskies recovered after blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead to beat Boston College 27-24 on Saturday.
It’s the second time in three seasons that the Mid-American Conference school has started its season by defeating a team from the ACC, which expanded to the Pacific Coast this week as the Power 5 continues to cannibalize less affluent leagues. NIU also beat Georgia Tech 22-21 in the 2021 opener.
Saturday’s victory over BC is the Huskies’ 18th “Boneyard Win,” the term they have used since 1983 for a victory over teams from the Power 5.
“We’re 2-0 in the ACC the last two years, maybe we should just move to the ACC. We’d have have better luck there,” Lombardi said. "Obviously, I’m joking. But it does mean a lot to us. I mean, these are Power 5 opponents, they’ve got more resources than we do.
“This is the NIL era, these players are paid; we’re not,” he said. “So to be able to come in here and get a win over a team like this, it really means a lot to us.”
Lombardi completed 13 passes for 165 yards and Antario Brown scored a pair of touchdowns — one running and one on a pass from running back Justin Lynch. But after Brock Lampe's 1-yard run gave the Huskies a 21-7 lead, BC backup quarterback Thomas Castellanos led the Eagles to a pair of touchdowns to tie it.
After BC managed a field goal in overtime, Lampe hauled in a one-handed catch on a crossing route for a 16-yard gain. Gavin Williams ran 8 yards to the 1 and then, with BC still getting its defense ready, Lombardi got under center and followed him over the goal line.
After the winning play was confirmed by replay, NIU coach Thomas Hammock brought his players back onto the field to take a picture in front of the scoreboard. It will go up in the Boneyard — the locker room display where the Huskies commemorate their Power 5 wins.
“At Georgia Tech, they turned the scoreboard off on us,” Hammock said. “We obviously want to take the picture. This is a big deal. You beat a Power 5 opponent on the road, that's a big deal for our program.”
The Eagles trailed 21-7 with about nine minutes left when they went for it on a fourth-and-5 from their own 46. Castellanos was chased back inside his own 20 – 30 yards into his own backfield – before he found Lewis Bond for a 10-yard gain. Castellanos finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to pull BC within one touchdown.
“I think it was kind of a crazy play, kind of got the guys excited," Castellanos said. "It was a fourth-down play. If I got sacked or anything would have happened, it would have been the end of the game. Me making making that play was very explosive and gave us momentum.”
After a stop, Castellanos led BC on its best drive of the day, completing a 22-yard pass to set up a 30-yard TD to Jaden Williams that tied it 21-all with 1:44 left.
Brown scored on 7-yard pass from Lynch late in the second quarter for the only score of the first half, then ran one in from 2 yards out to make it 14-0 with about 10 minutes left in the third. He limped off with about 13 minutes left, favoring his right leg, but returned in overtime.
The victory gives Northern Illinois something to build on as it looks ahead to another Power 5 matchup, against the Big Ten's Nebraska in two weeks. Boston College faces FCS Holy Cross next week, but will probably have to pull an upset in the ACC to gain bowl eligibility.
BC starter Emmett Morehead lasted just two series before he was replaced by Castellanos. Morehead came back in for the first drive of the second half and completed a 16-yarder on the sideline, but Castellanos replaced him for the second possession.
Morehead was 4 for 10 for 30 yards, and Castellanos was 13 for 28 for 138 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Northern Illinois had more success switching things up. With the Huskies facing a second and goal from the 7, Lynch took the snap and threw a flare out to Brown, who took it in for the score.
Northern Illinois: Visits Southern Illinois next Saturday.
Boston College: Hosts Holy Cross on Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll