DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — It's been a tough week for an obviously frustrated Kansas coach Charlie Weis.
First his team lost to Rice on a late field goal. Then Saturday afternoon, the Jayhawks (1-3) let a 23-13 fourth quarter lead slip away as Northern Illinois scored 17 straight points for a 30-23 victory.
"I'm really disappointed," Weis said. "For the second time this year you have a two score lead in the second half and you can't get over that hurdle."
While its defense was giving up three scores, the Jayhawks offense could not muster a first down on their final three series.
"You don't make enough plays on offense and you don't make enough plays on defense and that's how the game ends up," Weis said.
With Kansas leading 23-20 with just over 10 minutes left in the game, quarterback Dayne Crist threw a fourth down pass from the Northern Illinois 29 yard line to a wide open Kale Pick at the five, but the ball landed in the end zone.
"I should have made that throw," Crist said. "For him to come open, that's a play that I have to make."
Weis used the Wildcat with wide receiver Christian Matthews rushing for 43 yards on five carries.
"It hurts. It's frustrating," Crist said. "It's upsetting that we weren't mentally tough to finish a game that we had a two score lead."
Northern Illinois (3-1) running back Leighton Settle scored on a 2-yard run with 4:33 left to cap a 53-yard drive and the Huskies victory. The short field was set up when Northern Illinois defensive end Joe Windsor sacked Crist on third down at the Jayhawks 18 yard line. The Northern Illinois defense had four sacks, two by Windsor and two by defensive end Alan Baxter.
"They were 4 of 16 on third down," Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said. "That's our playmakers on defense making plays."
The Jayhawks looked to be in good shape when defensive back Tyler Patmon intercepted Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch and returned it 54-yards for a touchdown 27 seconds into the fourth quarter, giving Kansas a 23-13 lead after a missed extra point by Ron Doherty.
But on the next offensive snap, Lynch threw a Tim Tebow-like 9-yard jump pass to Martel Moore over the middle, and he ran untouched for a 65-yard score with 14:23 left, to bring the Huskies to within 23-20.
Northern Illinois kicker Mathew Sims then tied the score at 23-23 with a 44-yard field goal at the 7:58 mark.
The Huskies victory moved its home field winning streak to a school record 17 games, while the Jayhawks lost their 17th straight road contest.
Kansas took the second half kickoff 71 yards in 14 plays with James Sims scoring his second touchdown on a on a 1-yard run on fourth and goal to give the Jayhawks a 17-13 lead.
Lynch ran for 134 yards on 22 carries, his third 100-plus rushing game of the season. He also completed 23 of 35 passes for 235 yards, while Martel had five catches for 105 yards as Northern Illinois amassed 455 total yards..
"When we do what we have to do and play mistake-free football, there are not a lot of teams that can stop us," Lynch said.
James Sims, who was playing in his first game after being suspended for violating team rules, rushed 18 times for Kansas, totaling 91 yards and the two scores. Crist, the former Notre Dame quarterback when Weis was the coach, finished 10 for 26 for 147 yards.
The teams traded scores in the first half, with Northern Illinois holding a 13-10 lead at intermission. Kansas opened the scoring in the first quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Doherty. The Huskies took the ensuing kickoff and reached the end zone on a 4-yard pass from Lynch to wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. But the point after touchdown was wide by Mathew Sims, as the Huskies led 6-3 late in the first quarter.
Kansas grabbed the lead back early in the second quarter when James Sims scored on a 26-yard run up the middle, capping an 86-yard drive. Northern Illinois concluded the first half scoring as running back Akeem Daniels reached the end zone on a 3-yard run with 1:38 remaining.
The Jayhawks entered the contest with a two game losing streak, while Northern Illinois had won its previous two contests. Northern Illinois allowed 486 rushing yards in its victory over Army, but they limited Kansas to 179 yards.
It was a nostalgic game of sorts for Doeren, a Kansas native, who was an assistant coach at Kansas from 2002 to 2005.
"Being from Kansas and having worked there, that's great," Doeren said. "But my mom is probably more excited about that part than I am."
Chicago Bears Hall-of-Famer Gayle Sayers, known as the Kansas Comet, conducted the ceremonial coin flip.