BYU vs Northern Illinois 17

The crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium takes a moment of silence to honor Lauren McCluskey, who was slain on the University of Utah campus this past week, before the game against Northern Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Provo.

It’s hard to beat football in Provo on an afternoon in late October with temperatures in the lower-70s and clear skies.

However, BYU and Northern Illinois did all they could to statistically put a damper on an otherwise picture-perfect day.

The teams combined for 505 yards of total offense (there are 11 FBS team that average 505 yards or more per game) and went 6-for-29 on third down, averaging just over four yards per play all game.

BYU finished with 93 rushing yards and 208 passing yards — averages of 2.5 yards per carry and 11.6 yards per completion.

The Cougars did shut out an opponent in the first half for the first time this year, taking a 3-0 lead to the locker room. The last time BYU did that was against Wyoming in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl.

However, the Cougars were held without a touchdown for the first time since a 40-6 loss to No. 10 Wisconsin last year and a Marcus Childers’ touchdown run with 11:19 left in the third quarter was all the NIU Huskies needed for a 7-6 win.

Third time’s a charm for NIU

A 3-0 game at halftime was nothing new for NIU. The Huskies trailed 3-0 at Iowa in their season-opening 33-7 loss and led Utah 3-0 before losing 17-6 to the Utes.

The victory over BYU was their first non-conference win of the season.

Huskies stifle Cougar run game

Entering Saturday’s game, NIU ranked No. 5 nationally in rushing yards allowed per attempt (2.7 — tied with Utah and Iowa). Early in the fourth quarter, BYU’s average dipped as low as 1.8 yards per carry and the Cougars finished with an average 2.5 per carry. The longest rush of the game came when Matt Hadley ran for 13 yards and a first down with 11:10 to play in the fourth quarter.

The Cougars are now 0-4 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards and Saturday’s 93 yards were the most in a loss this season.

Wilson sets career passing mark

Wilson set a career-high with a 42-yard pass to Talon Shumway in the third quarter. A 28-yard completion to Matt Bushman earlier in the game was his previous high.

Wilson finished the game 18-for-30 for 208 yards, one interception and a rating of 111.6.

Punters shine in field position battle

Both Rhett Almond and Matt Ference had multiple punts over 50 yards and averaged over 40 yards per punt. It was a career night for Almond, who finished with 294 punting yards and a career long of 57 yards.

Almond had four punts downed inside the 20-yard line, with Chris Wilcox downing one at the 1-yard line.

Not to be outdone, Ference had a 53-yard punt roll out-of-bounds inside the 1-yard line, setting up the Cougars with a 99-and-a-half yard field late in the fourth quarter. BYU ended up punting on that possession with just over three minutes left in the game.

Cosmo and the Cougarettes thrill during first half

BYU’s mascot was back in the south end zone with the Cougarettes this week, performing a routine to Michael Jackson’s hit “Thriller.”

Cosmo has had multiple videos go viral over the past two seasons, most recently after a routine ended with the mascot losing his head on a flip and hiding — with a little help from his stunt team — to preserve his hidden identity.

Cosmo also celebrated his 65th birthday last week.

Cancer survivors honored as flag bearers

In honor of cancer awareness week, BYU basketball head coach Dave Rose, athletic trainer Carolyn Billings, Trace Eddington, Amber Robbins and Eric Glem were named flag bearers for Saturday’s game. All are cancer survivors and ran out with pink “Y” flags.

Shirley Johnson, Colleen Tidwell, Jan Pyne, Alexis Kaufusi and Linda Godfrey — all cancer survivors — were named honorary flag bearers by the team.

Tribute to Lauren

Before Saturday’s game against the Huskies, BYU held a moment of silence for Lauren McCluskey, a University of Utah athlete who was shot and killed this week in Salt Lake City.

Home not-so-sweet home

BYU is 2-7 over the past two seasons at home against FBS teams with wins over San Jose State and Hawaii. The Cougars haven’t won back-to-back home games since November 2016, when they beat UMass and Utah State.

Extra points

This was the first-ever meeting between the Cougars and Northern Illinois. … The Cougars lost the coin toss. … Linebacker Matt Hadley and alum Matt Criddle ran out the U.S. and state of Utah flags, respectively. ... Game-time weather was announced as being 70 degrees with clear skies. … The announced attendance was 51,084.