Lynch guides Northern Illinois to MAC title game

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

TOLEDO, Ohio -- Northern Illinois booked a trip to Detroit, quarterback Jordan Lynch moved closer to a possible trip to New York, and the Huskies stayed in contention for a second straight BCS bowl bid.
All in a night's work for the 16th-ranked Huskies.
Northern Illinois advanced to its fourth consecutive Mid-American Conference championship game in Detroit after Lynch scored three second-half rushing touchdowns in a 35-17 win over Toledo on Wednesday night at the Glass Bowl.
The Huskies (11-0, 7-0) captured the MAC West Division title for the fourth year in a row. The MAC championship game is set for Dec. 6 at Ford Field.
"That's a good team we beat in Toledo," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "We didn't finish drives (in the first half), but we got it going in the second half."
Northern Illinois, which won the past two MAC championships, relied on another big game by its senior quarterback.
Lynch is gaining momentum for a possible invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York after shredding the Rockets for 202 yards passing and 161 yards rushing. He completed 17 of 22 passes, and he ran the ball 28 times.
"We're excited to be going back to Detroit," Lynch said. "This was a hard-fought win. We battled and came out on top."
Lynch raised his career starting record to 15-0 against MAC teams, and he moved into the No. 3 spot on NIU's all-time rushing list. Lynch lifted his season totals to 1,434 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, plus 2,418 yards passing and 21 touchdowns.
"He's obviously meant a lot to us the last two years, and he comes to play in big games," Carey said of Lynch.
For the second consecutive week, the Huskies relied on a big second half to turn a close game into a blowout. The Huskies outscored Ball State 28-3 in the second half in a 48-27 victory on Nov. 13. Trailing 10-7 at halftime against Toledo, the Huskies outscored the Rockets 28-7 in the second half, including a run of 21 unanswered points.
Lynch padded Northern Illinois' lead to 28-17 on a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:42 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 15-play, 99-yard drive.
"I told the offense (at halftime) that all they had to do was finish," Carey said. "I thought in the second half starting out (strong) really helped."
The decisive surge by Northern Illinois came after Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens' 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bernard Reedy gave the Rockets a 17-14 lead with 8:34 left in the third quarter.
The Rockets (7-4, 5-2) had their five-game winning streak snapped. They committed three first-half turnovers and finished with four turnovers.
Owens went 17-for-29 for 235 yards, with wide receiver Alonzo Russell making five catches for 100 yards. Toledo running back Kareem Hunt gained 91 yards on 19 carries.
"We made too many mistakes, and Northern Illinois took advantage of them," Toledo coach Matt Campbell.
Northern Illinois wide receiver Juwan Brescacin had eight receptions for 121 yards. The Huskies racked up 364 yards rushing, with running back Cameron Stingily racking up 146 yards on 18 carries. Running back James Spencer gained 32 yards and scored two touchdowns on five carries.
The Huskies finished with 566 yards of total offense and converted 10 of 15 third-down attempts to win their 15th straight road game.
The Huskies' offense suffered a major blow when wide receiver Da'Ron Brown, who caught two touchdown passes against Ball State, left in the first quarter with an injury. The Huskies already were without leading receiver Tommylee Lewis, who sat out the game due to an undisclosed injury.
The Rockets, who gained 419 total yards, couldn't take advantage of the Huskies' stagnant offense in the first half. Owens lost a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Three plays later, Spencer, a seldom-used reserve with just 18 carries for 101 yards in Northern Illinois' first 10 games, broke free for an 18-yard touchdown run.
Owens' troubles continued on his next pass attempt, which was picked off by senior safety Jimmie Ward (his sixth of the season). After a 36-yard field goal by Toledo's Jeremiah Detmer sliced the deficit to 7-3, the Rockets missed another scoring chance when Owens' pass was picked off by sophomore linebacker Boomer Mays in the end zone.
After Northern Illinois senior kicker Mathew Sims missed a field-goal try, Owens tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Russell for a 10-7 lead with 51 seconds left in the first half.
"We got off to a good start and held them in the first half, but we just couldn't get it going in the second half," Campbell said.
NOTES: The teams' last meeting at Toledo was one of the most memorable games in the series. Toledo WR Eric Page scored five touchdowns and Northern Illinois' Tommylee Lewis returned two kickoffs for touchdowns as the Huskies pulled out a 63-60 victory. ... Toledo RB David Fluellen started Wednesday after sitting out the previous two games with a lower left leg injury. Fluellen gained 54 yards on 15 carries, bringing his season total to 1,121 yards in nine games. ... The Huskies trailed in 10 of their 11 games, including 10-7 at halftime Wednesday.

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