Everyone in Scheumann Stadium could’ve guessed who it was going to.

Trailing by a touchdown with just under four minutes left, Ball State forced Northern Illinois into a 3rd-and-6 from the 13-yard line. Fifth-year senior receiver Kenny Golladay had made plays in tight coverage all day, but this time, he found himself wide open off a curl route on the right hash.

First down. Ball game.

Ball State: Game stats

Rushing yards: 151

Passing yards: 276

Total yards: 427

Total yards allowed: 653

Golladay hauled in 13 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns — including the game-winning score with 11:14 left — as Northern Illinois held on for a 31-24 road win Oct. 1. It was the Huskies’ eighth straight win in the battle for the Bronze Stalk Trophy.

“The kid is talented,” said head coach Mike Neu. “Golladay is an exceptional player for our conference. Marc [Walton] competed, and all of our guys competed, but when the opportunity presented itself, he went up and made some plays.”

The 5-foot-10 Walton drew the tough assignment of covering 6-foot-4, 213 lb. Golladay for most of the day, who came in ranked third in the Mid-American Conference with 372 receiving yards and a 15.5 yards per catch average.

Walton had some success — eight tackles, two pass breakups and an interception — but Golladay’s target share proved to be too much in the end.

“He’s the best receiver I’ve faced all year,” Walton said. “I made a couple plays, but he ended up making more plays than me. I just gotta tip my hat to him.”

Northern Illinois gained 653 yards of total offense, but never led by more than one score. Ball State forced two turnovers in the second half to stay within striking distance, including Walton’s interception in the corner of the end zone.

“I was playing high low coverage,” he said. “I knew the quarterback didn’t think I was playing high low, and he threw the flat and I jumped it.”

That quarterback was fifth-year senior Anthony Maddie. In his starting debut, Maddie was 26-41 for 298 yards and two touchdowns, to go along with 14 carries, 160 rush yards and a 75-yard score to put the Huskies up 10-3 in the first quarter.

Neu said they knew coming in that Northern Illinois wanted to run the ball with Maddie and running back Joel Bouagnon, who ran for 153 yards and a touchdown. They just got tired.

“I felt like when they were going tempo, our guys did not look as fresh as I had seen them. I thought they looked gassed,” Neu said. “I’ve gotta look at that and find out why that was, because I certainly felt, from my vantage point on the sideline, that the tempo got us.”

Pair that with Ball State’s up-tempo scheme, and you have just one drive in the first half that lasted three minutes.

Sophomore quarterback Riley Neal started off sharp, but was a little off in the second half. He finished 23-40 for 276 yards, but it was sophomore running back James Gilbert who stole the show.

Gilbert rushed for 119 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. His 3-yard score tied the game at 24-24 with 12:26 left in the fourth, but other than that, Ball State punted six times, missed a field goal and turned it over on the downs once in the second half.

“The whole offense, we felt like we left some touchdowns out there,” Gilbert said. “We can’t do that against teams like this.”

Northern Illinois’ final score of the game came exactly the way you’d expect it to by now — with Golladay reeling in a 22-yarder down the right sideline to go up 31-24.

With that combination of speed and size? Game over.

“Yes, that was not a great matchup,” Neu said. “You’ve got to give him the credit. In those situations, we’ve got to step up and make the play on our end. We’ll look at the tape, make sure we drill it in practice and make our corrections.”