A Utah fan waves a sign during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley scrambles during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Zack Moss is tackled for a loss during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah coach Jim Harding speaks with quarterback Tyler Huntley during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Caleb Repp breaks a tackle after a deflected extra point attempt during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Brittain Covey makes a catch during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham talks with an official during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley is sacked during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham looks on during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah football players sing the fight song after the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Jaylen Dixon greets fans after the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Coach Kyle Whittingham speaks with media after the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah's Cody Barton tackles NIU running back Tre Harbison during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Chase Hansen celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Samson Nacua sings the fight song during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Bradley Anae tackles Marcu Childers during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley is tackled during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah running back Zack Moss is looked at by medical staff during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley scrambles during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley scrambles during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah coach Jim Harding speaks with his offensive players after giving up two sacks during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah running back Zack Moss runs into the end zone during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Julian Blackmon breaks up a pass during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley is sacked during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Britain Covey runs to the end zone during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News
Utah mascot Swoop points to Utah fans during the game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois.
Jenna Miller, For the Deseret News

DEKALB, Ill. — Utah’s defense came up big in Saturday’s 17-6 win at Northern Illinois. As such, it was only fitting that linebacker Chase Hansen’s 40-yard interception return for a score sealed the deal late in the fourth quarter/

The Utes held the Huskies to just 228 yards of total offense to win the first meeting between the teams. Cody Barton and Hansen combined for 25 tackles. Jaylon Johnson added eight, while John Penisini accounted for seven stops. Corrion Ballard finished with six and two forced fumbles.

Utah’s offense and special teams, though, didn’t play as well — in fact, not even close because of miscues and missed opportunities.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that the degree of difficulty goes up with the Washington Huskies coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.

“The degree of difficulty goes up,” he said. “And we have got to perform much better and I think our guys will. I think they’ll bounce back.”

WHY HERE?: New Utah athletic director Mark Harlan addressed the big question before the Utes left Salt Lake City.

“Well, I don’t have all the answers as to why we’re playing at Northern Illinois. What I can say generally is scheduling is a riddle in any place I’ve been,” Harlan said. “So I don’t disparage, nor anything further, about why we’re playing there.”

Harlan added that he is familiar with NIU’s winning percentage, particularly at Huskie Stadium.

“We competed against them when I was at South Florida a couple of years ago,” Harlan said. “Tough, tough team.”

FIRST TIMERS: Earlier in the week, Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey noted the significance of having a Pac-12 team play at Huskie Stadium for the first time.

“To have a quality opponent like Utah coming in, it’s a big deal for us — our community, our university and all that,” he said.

BEEHIVE CONNECTIONS: College football fans in Utah will see a lot of NUI. The Huskies play at BYU on Oct. 27. The Utes will host the Huskies on Sept. 7, 2019, while the Cougars are headed to DeKalb for a game on Oct. 24, 2020.

EXTRA POINTS: Left guard Orlando Umana made his first career start for the Utes . . . Utah used approximately 700 of the 800 tickets it was allotted . . . Scouts from the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders were credentialed for the game. The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders were also represented . . . The announced attendance was 16,762.