University of Maine season opener against Delaware at Alfond Stadium. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Northern Illinois, led by quarterback Rocky Lombardi, scored the game’s final 27 points to pull away for a 41-14 victory over the University of Maine in DeKalb, Illinois, Saturday afternoon.

Football Bowl Subdivision team Northern Illinois improved to 2-2 while Football Championship Subdivision UMaine fell to 1-3.

UMaine is now 3-23 against FBS schools.

Michigan State University transfer Lombardi completed 17 of 24 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 119 yards on 10 carries, including three touchdown runs.

Freshman Harrison Waylee added 130 rushing yards on 23 carries.

Lombardi’s 7-yard touchdown run with 4:31 left in the first half snapped a 14-14 tie and gave Northern Illinois the lead for good.

UMaine took the second half kickoff and marched down to the NIU 43 yard line.

But on fourth down and one, Freddie Brock got stopped short of the first down marker by Lance Deveaux and Nick Rattin.

“We have to be able to pick up a few inches and get a first down in the situation. But we didn’t,” said UMaine head football coach Nick Charlton.

The Huskies marched down to the UMaine 19 yard line before UMaine’s defense buckled down and forced them to settle for a 27-yard field goal by John Richardson which made it 24-14.

UMaine had a golden opportunity to cut into the lead when defensive end Khairi Manns’ 20-yard return of a Lombardi fumble set the Black Bears up at the NIU 15 yard line.

Two Brock runs picked up a first down at the NIU 5 yard line but two incompletions surrounded a 1-yard loss by Brock so UMaine sent Jonny Messina out to kick a 23-yard field goal.

He missed it.

“He has been making those his whole life,” Charlton said.

NIU converted on a third-and-18 situation when Lombardi connected on a 66-yard pass to Cole Tucker and Richardson eventually kicked a 25-yard field goal to make it 27-14 early in the fourth quarter.

Lombardi scampered 64 yards for a touchdown with 9:34 left and he capped the scoring with an 18-yard run after Jacob Hennie fumbled a punt and NIU’s Erik Abrell recovered it.

“Lombardi is a good player,” Charlton said. “He threw the ball well and had some good runs at the end.

“I was disappointed with our second half,” Charlton added. “You have to be able to execute. We ran the ball well and defined the line of scrimmage in the first half but we didn’t in the second half. We certainly had our chances. When you play an FBS school, you have to capitalize on your opportunities and you can’t make mistakes.”

NIU generated nine plays that gained at least 17 yards over the course of the game.

Waylee’s 7-yard touchdown run opened the scoring, but Brock answered with a 28-yard touchdown run.

Lombardi tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Clint Ratkovich to restore the lead for NIU, but Elijah Barnwell tied it with a 4-yard run.

In his second career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Derek Robertson completed 14 of 26 passes for 165 yards for the Black Bears. Devin Young had six catches for 70 yards and Andre Miller had five for 87 yards.

Brock rushed for 85 yards on 18 carries.

NIU outgained UMaine 574-290 including 292 rushing yards.

NIU’s Tyrice Richie had a game-high seven catches for 76 yards and Tucker had four catches for 114 yards.

Jordan Hansen, C.J. Brown and Dillon Thomas had eight tackles apiece for NIU while UMaine’s Josh Lezin, Ray Miller and Fofie Bazzie had eight apiece to lead the Black Bears. Rich Carr had an interception.

Junior nose tackle Lezin’s eight tackles were a career-high.

UMaine was without injured defensive end and three-year starter Jamehl Wiley.

UMaine is off next weekend before returning to Colonial Athletic Association play against visiting Elon (North Carolina) on Oct. 9. Game time is noon.