SAN DIEGO -- Senior running back Joey DeMartino rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown as Utah State upended No. 23 Northern Illinois 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday night.
Utah State (9-5) clamped down on Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch, who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting. The Aggies also handed Northern Illinois (12-2) its second consecutive defeat after the Huskies won 12 in a row.
DeMartino's 1-yard run with 4:14 remaining gave Utah State a 21-7 advantage and turned out to be the difference.
Lynch, who completed 20 of 35 passes for 216 yards, connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Juwan Brescacin with 1:44 left to cut the margin. The Aggies recovered the onside kick, securing the win.
Utah State safety Brian Suite had an interception and a fumble recovery. He picked off a Lynch pass on the first play of the second half, setting up freshman quarterback Darell Garretson's 5-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Brandon Swindall for a 13-7 Utah State lead with 11:57 left in the third quarter.
The Aggies' defense limited the Huskies to one first down in the third quarter, and that one came courtesy of a 10-yard run by tight end Desroy Maxwell on fourth-and-6 from the Northern Illinois 19 on the final play of the quarter. The Huskies didn't manage another first down until their final drive.
The Aggies prevailed despite two second-half turnovers, one of them costing them a touchdown and another occurring deep in their own territory. It was standard operating procedure for Utah State, whose defense allowed just 13 points after 16 turnovers.
Garretson, who went 17-for-29 for 121 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, was picked off by safety Jimmy Ward in the end zone after the Aggies drove to the Northern Illinois 12 late in the third quarter.
Garretson threw another interception at the Utah State 14, where Northern Illinois defensive tackle Ken Bishop was the recipient. The Huskies failed to take advantage of the miscue, as kicker Mathew Sims missed a 29-yard field goal with 11:33 left in the game. Sims also missed a 37-yard attempt in the first half.
Two Nick Diaz field goals staked the Aggies to a 6-0 lead. A fumble by Lynch, recovered by Suite at the Northern Illinois 46, led to a 31-yard field goal by Diaz with 6:56 left in the first quarter.
Diaz added a 39-yarder with 14:09 remaining in the second quarter, tying the Poinsettia Bowl record set by Navy's Joey Bullen in 2007.
Later in the second quarter, Lynch guided the Huskies on a 15-play, 78-yard drive. He sneaked across the goal line on a 1-yard run to give Northern Illinois a 7-6 lead with 8:17 remaining before halftime.
The Huskies had an opportunity to pad their lead, but the Aggies' defense stuffed Lynch for no gain on a running attempt on fourth-and-3 from the Utah State 25 with less than a minute left in the half.
Lynch completed 14 of 18 attempts for 156 yards in the first half. Garretson connected on nine of 16 passes for 60 yards.
NOTES: Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch came up short in his bid to become the first player in NCAA history to pass and run for 2,000 yards in the a season. He gained just 39 yards on 18 carries Thursday. Lynch rushed for 1,920 yards (a record for quarterbacks) and threw for 2,892 yards. ... Aggies RB Joey DeMartino's 58-yard run late in the first quarter was the longest run in the Poinsettia Bowl, breaking the mark of 44 yards set by Navy's Reggie Campbell in 2007. ... Utah State QB Darell Garretson, whose father Rick was a wide receiver at San Diego State in the late '70s, is the nephew of NBA referee Ron Garretson and the grandson of the late Darell Garretson, a longtime NBA official. ... The game drew a crowd of 23,408.