NCAA Game Summary - Northern Illinois vs. Kent State|
(Friday, November 30th)
Final Score: (19) Northern Illinois 44, (18) Kent State 37 (2-OT)
Detroit, MI (Sports Network) - The big boys can finally rest easy.
Jordan Lynch rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns while adding a passing
score as 19th-ranked Northern Illinois captured its second straight MAC
Championship with an action-packed 44-37 double-overtime victory over No. 18
Kent State in the conference title game, spoiling the Golden Flashes' hopes of
crashing the BCS party in the process.
Lynch added 212 yards with one interception on 19-of-34 passing in addition to
his 36 rushing attempts, with Akeem Daniels finishing with 128 yards on 17
totes for Northern Illinois (12-1), which extended its program-record winning
streak to 12 games after withstanding a furious fourth-quarter rally from
the Golden Flashes.
"Everybody believed," Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said. "I think
that's what we do. We've been in tough places before and I'm just really proud
of the resolve and the leadership and the instinctiveness our team has."
The loss was costly for Kent State (11-2) -- and the MAC as well. A victory
would have given the Golden Flashes a good chance of cracking the top-16 of
the BCS standings and thereby automatically qualifying for a berth in one of
the major bowls.
Kent State entered the game ranked 17th in the latest BCS poll.
The Huskies will have a harder time earning a place in what would likely be
the Orange Bowl, as Northern Illinois was listed 21st in the most recent
Kent State fought back from a 27-13 fourth-quarter deficit with two touchdowns
within an 15-second span, then later forced overtime on Spencer Keith's 19-
yard pass to Tim Erjavec with 44 seconds in regulation that tied the score at
Keith also had a rushing touchdown for the Golden Flashes, but completed just
15-of-36 throws for 190 yards and was intercepted twice.
"Well, what a great football game," said Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell.
"It's a tough one for us to swallow right now. That's a great football team we
played and they did an excellent job, and I was proud of our football team for
keep battling back after being down by 14 points. We just needed to make a
couple more plays at the end on both sides of the ball."
What was billed as the biggest game in MAC history had little drama heading
into the final stages of regulation, with Northern Illinois owning a 14-point
lead with under five minutes to go in regulation. However, the Golden Flashes
drew even in a flash, putting up a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back plays
from scrimmage to set up the frantic finish.
Dri Archer sparked the comeback by turning a short pass into a 60-yard gain
deep into NIU territory, and Keith willed his way into the end zone from five
yards out shortly afterward to pull Kent State within 27-20 with 4:53
Kent's defense then rose to the occasion, with Lynch mishandling the exchange
on the very next snap after the kickoff and Zack Hitchens scooping up the
loose ball and racing 22 yards to tie the score.
The Huskies would have a quick response, however, needing only four plays to
march 75 yards and go back ahead.
Lynch hit Daniels out of the backfield for a 43-yard scamper to the Kent 23,
and Daniels ripped off a 14-yard run before Lynch scored his second TD of the
night to put NIU in front by a 34-27 count with 3:12 to play.
Keith struggled throughout much of the evening, but came up with several big
plays down the stretch to keep the Flashes' BCS dreams alive.
He completed an 11-yard pass to Matthew Hurdle on 3rd-and-10 to sustain the
late drive, then later hit Chris Humphrey for seven yards on a 3rd-and-3 to
the Huskies' 33.
Faced with another third down situation, Keith evaded a rush and fired a
bullet to Erjavec in the end zone from 19 yards away with just 44 seconds
showing on the clock. Freddy Cortez made the subsequent point-after try to
knot the score at 34-34 and ultimately bring on an extra session.
"I always tell the guys to stay calm and take it one play at a time and that's
what we did," said Keith. "Even when we got to third down and 10, that type of
situation, we were just focused on the next play and tried to execute that.
The quick passes were working, guys were getting open and the line did a great
job protecting in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and we just got things
rolling with that."
Both teams came up with stops in the first overtime, with an ill-fated reverse
attempt to Erjavec resulting in an 11-yard loss that prompted Cortez's 33-yard
field goal on Kent State's initial possession. The Huskies failed to net a
first down on their chance, but Mathew Sims delivered a clutch 40-yard kick to
induce a second OT.
Northern Illinois would get the ball first, and Daniels broke through for a
23-yard run to the Kent State 2 to begin the series. Lynch barreled across
the goal line on the next snap for a 44-37 Huskies' advantage.
With help from a defensive pass interference penalty, the Flashes got inside
the NIU 10 on their opportunity. However, Keith misfired on two straight
passes to force fourth down, then was picked off by Demetrius Stone in the end
zone to have its school-record 10-game win streak come to an end.
Kent State started out strongly, opening up a 10-0 first-quarter lead after
taking advantage of two special-teams blunders by the Huskies.
Darius Polk recovered a fumbled punt by the Huskies' Angelo Sebastiano on the
NIU 22-yard line, leading to Archer's 15-yard touchdown run for the game's
first points. An 18-yard punt by Northern Illinois' Ryan Neir later put the
Golden Flashes in position for Cortez's 37-yard field goal that extended the
differential to 10 points.
Lynch and the NIU offense got untracked afterward, however, with the MAC
Player of the Year directing three straight scoring possessions to put his
Sims capped a 14-play, 65-yard march with a 27-yard field goal to get the
Huskies on the board in the final minute of the first quarter, and Lynch led a
6-play, 59-yard sequence on Northern Illinois' next series that ended with his
14-yard strike to Martel Moore.
After Dechante Durante's interception of Keith on Kent State's ensuing touch
again provided the Huskies with good field position, NIU went 58 yards in 12
plays to reach the end zone again on Daniels' 1-yard plunge, giving the
Huskies their first lead at 17-10 with 5:53 to go before halftime.
Northern Illinois would maintain a 7-point edge at the break, but Kent State
drew closer on Cortez's 24-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third
quarter, a score set up by Trayion Durham's 22-yard gain on a screen pass.
The Huskies would come up with points on their next two possessions, however,
to take a seemingly comfortable 27-13 margin into the fourth quarter.
Lynch burst through for a 44-yard run off right tackle on 4th-and-1 to
highlight the first drive, which he ended with a 1-yard touchdown midway
through the third quarter. After the NIU defense caused a quick three-and-out,
the Huskies moved into the red zone before eventually settling for Sims' 29-
yard field goal.
The aforementioned 44-yard run gave Lynch an FBS single-season record for
rushing yards by a quarterback, surpassing Michigan's Denard Robinson's 1,702
yards in 2010.
Lynch now has 1,771 rushing yards on the season and extended his FBS record of
consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback to 11 ... The Huskies
finished with a 312-70 advantage in yards gained on the ground and outgained
Kent State by a 524-260 margin in total yards ... Northern Illinois became the
first repeat MAC champion since Central Michigan did so in 2006 and 2007 ...
The West division champion has now prevailed in five of the last seven MAC
title games ... The contest marked the first MAC Championship to feature two
nationally ranked programs since Miami-Ohio and Bowling Green squared off in
12/01 02:19:13 ET