NCAA Game Summary - Ohio vs. Northern Illinois|
(Friday, December 2nd)
Final Score: Northern Illinois 23, Ohio 20
Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - This time, Northern Illinois delivered the
crushing blow instead of taking it.
Mathew Sims kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired Friday night, capping
a stunning second half comeback and lifting Northern Illinois to a 23-20 win
over Ohio for the Mid-American Conference Championship.
The Huskies (10-3) won the MAC title game for the first time despite trailing
20-0 at halftime.
Sims' kick, which followed two Ohio timeouts and came minutes after he missed
an extra point, sailed just inside the left upright.
"I knew he was going to make it," said Northern Illinois head coach Dave
Doeren. "When he came off I could tell he was mad about the extra point. I
said, 'Don't worry about it. You'll get a chance to make up for it.'"
The field goal was set up by four plays that gained 48 yards, including Perez
Ashford's leaping 27-yard catch at the left sideline with a defender all over
Northern Illinois overcame the memory of last year's MAC title game, which it
lost in a heartbreaker when Miami-Ohio converted a 4th-and-20 on a deflected
pass and scored a touchdown with 33 seconds left for the win.
The Huskies won their eighth straight game and captured their first MAC title
since 1983. The conference championship game wasn't played until 1997.
Ohio (9-4) appeared in its third conference championship game in the last six
years, but has yet to win. The Bobcats gave up 23 unanswered points and failed
to ice the game twice in the fourth quarter, punting two times in the last
five minutes. They had a five-game winning streak snapped.
"We just put ourselves in position to not make plays like we were making in
the first half," said Ohio coach Frank Solich. "It was a combination of them
playing good football and us not playing good football."
Safety Nathan Carpenter did all he could to break up Chandler Harnish's pass
to a well-covered Ashford in the final minutes, getting a hand on the ball as
both players fell to the ground.
But Ashford kept possession and came down in bounds on a play that was
challenged by Ohio but upheld. Afterward, Ashford said Doeren stressed at the
beginning of the season the importance of getting over last season's loss to
"Last year's over, and that's how we went about it," said Ashford.
Harnish passed for 250 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Two of his
TD passes came in the fourth quarter, but he also fumbled once as the MAC West
champions had trouble getting out of their own way for 2 1/2 quarters. Nathan
Palmer had four catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Tyler Tettleton threw for 218 yards and rushed for a touchdown for Ohio, but
was also intercepted three times. Backup Phil Bates threw a touchdown pass on
a trick play in the first half.
Ohio was unable to capitalize on a long drive down to the Northern Illinois
19 that bled into the fourth quarter when Matt Weller missed a 36-yard field
goal try wide right.
Tettleton was picked off on Ohio's next possession, and the Huskies turned it
into a touchdown when Harnish found Martel Moore behind two defenders on the
left side for a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Sims missed the extra point try wide right, so the Huskies only pulled within
Following a 12-yard punt by Ohio, Harnish hit Palmer in the back of the end
zone for a 22-yard touchdown. Sims' extra point was good to tie the game.
Ohio then went three-and-out, setting up the Huskies' game-winning drive.
Earlier, Ohio converted two Northern Illinois turnovers into 10 first half
points and scored another seven on a gadget reverse play. The teams traded
interceptions on the first two possessions and the MAC East champions took a
3-0 lead on Weller's 30-yard field goal.
Later in the first, Bates lined up wide and took a pitch from Tettleton before
delivering a 24-yard touchdown pass to Donte Foster to make it 10-0.
After Weller kicked a 21-yard field goal early in the second, NIU fumbled the
kickoff. The Huskies got the ball back soon after that on an interception, but
gave it back when Harnish fumbled on a sack.
Tettleton then broke off an 18-yard touchdown run for a 20-0 Ohio lead
heading into halftime.
Northern Illinois survived another turnover (a fumble) to start the second
half, then scored its first points later in the third quarter when Palmer spun
out of two tackles and dove to complete a 39-yard touchdown catch.
The play was reviewed -- Palmer's reach just made it to the goal line -- and
"You have to give them a great deal of credit for coming back in the second
half," said Solich. "We had plenty of chances, we just did not play well
enough to make them work for us."
12/03 01:15:46 ET