DEKALB, Ill. -- A year after landing a spot in the Orange Bowl, Northern Illinois moved a step closer to crashing the BCS bowl party for the second straight year.
Senior quarterback Jordan Lynch tossed two touchdown passes to wide receiver Da'Ron Brown, including a 38-yarder in the fourth quarter, to lift the No. 15 Northern Illinois to a come-from-behind 48-27 win over Ball State on Wednesday night at Huskie Stadium.
The Huskies (10-0, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) broke open a 27-27 tie in the fourth quarter after Brown's second touchdown reception, a 16-yard touchdown run by Lynch with 1:26 left and defensive end Joe Windsor's 49-yard interception return for a touchdown with 46 seconds to go. Northern Illinois scored 21 points in the final 5:49 of the game.
Northern Illinois' defense keyed the late spurt with a key fourth-down stop with the Huskies clinging to a 34-27 lead.
Lynch completed 26 of 32 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for 123 yards and a touchdown to carry the Huskies to their 23rd conference win in a row. The Huskies, who have won three consecutive MAC West Division titles, have to beat Toledo on Nov. 20 to secure another trip to the MAC championship game in Detroit.
Brown caught eight passes for 209 yards.
Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning finished 35-for-49 for 324 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Cardinals running back Jahwan Edwards produced 156 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, and wide receiver Willie Snead made 12 receptions for 121 yards and a score.
Both teams struggled scoring in the first quarter, but the game came to life in the second quarter.
The Cardinals led 7-3 after the opening quarter following a 3-yard touchdown pass from Wenning to Snead. The Huskies, who fell behind early in eight of their first nine games, fought back to seize a 10-7 after running back Jordan Lynch scored on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter.
The Cardinals, who defeated Virginia earlier this season, quickly answered with a 10-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Wenning's 1-yard touchdown run for a 14-10 lead.
Northern Illinois senior kicker Mathew Sims drilled his second field goal of the half, a 20-yarder to cut the deficit to 14-13 with five minutes left until halftime.
Wenning, who holds Ball State's career record in touchdown passes, passing yards, pass completions and pass attempts, responded by marching the Cardinals down the field, with Edwards scoring a 5-yard touchdown to cap a 75-yard drive and extend the lead to 21-13.
The Huskies immediately trimmed the deficit to 21-20 when Brown took a screen pass from Lynch and raced 58 yards for a touchdown with 1:13 left until halftime.
The Cardinals closed out wild second quarter with a 43-yard field goal by Scott Secor with 25 seconds remaining for a 24-20 halftime lead.
NOTES: Northern Illinois senior QB Jordan Lynch's two touchdown runs raised his season total to 14 rushing touchdowns and 39 for his career. ... Ball State junior WR Willie Snead added to his single-season school record of touchdown catches in a season with his 13th. ... The night was designated as the "Heroes Game." The Huskies donned uniforms with stripes on their left shoulder and stars on their right shoulder, and with the word "Heroes" on the back on each player's uniform above their number. The uniforms will be auctioned off to benefit Active Heroes, a charity that assists wounded veterans and military families. ... Ball State TB Jahwan Edwards' 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was his 38th career touchdown, a school record for total touchdowns. All of Edwards' touchdowns came on the ground.