NIU keeps BCS bowl hopes alive with victory in Toledo
Who’s ready for some Motor City Magic, Chapter Four?
Jordan Lynch and the still-undefeated NIU Huskies football team earned their fourth consecutive ticket to the 2013 Mid-American Conference Championship tonight with a 35-17 win over the Toledo Rockets, who had been the only remaining obstacle between Rod Carey’s crew and Detroit in December.
Lynch ran for 161 yards on 28 carries and scored three second-half rushing touchdowns, and threw for 202 yards on 17-of-22 passing to lead No. 16 Northern Illinois to victory at the Glass Bowl in Toledo.
With the win, NIU is 11-0 for the first time in school history, including a 7-0 mark in the MAC.
NIU won its 15th straight road game, its 24th consecutive MAC game and claimed its seventh road win of 2013. The Huskies’ road and conference win streaks both lead the nation. Lynch has never lost a Mid-American Conference game as a starting quarterback.
Lynch gained 131 yards on 15 carries in the second half and scored on touchdown runs of 12, 31 and one yards. His final touchdown run came with 9:38 left in the game and capped a 15-play, 99-yard drive that consumed 5:18 on the clock. Lynch ran for 62 yards on the drive, which put the Huskies ahead 28-17.
“It feels good,” Carey said. “It was a hard-fought game. In the first half, we didn’t finish on offense and we were kicking field goals and we didn’t make `em. The defense played great the whole game. We told the offense at halftime, finish.”
The Huskie offense took the message to heart on the first possession of the second half, driving 85 yards in six plays and 6:33 to take a 14-10 lead. Lynch hit Juwan Brescacin on completions of 11 and 32 yards on the drive, and sophomore Jacob Brinlee gained 27 yards on a reception. With starting receivers Tommylee Lewis and Da’Ron Brown sidelined by injuries, Brescacin caught a career best eight passes for 121 yards in the game.
“Juwan’s been our best-kept secret weapon,” Lynch said. “We rep him all day long in practice, but Da’Ron’s the starter and today Juwan stepped up. I’m so proud of that kid.”
In the second half, it was the NIU rushing game that won the day.
The Huskies ran for 268 of their 364 rushing yards after halftime. In addition to Lynch’s 161 rushing yards in the game, Cameron Stingily had 146 yards on 18 carries and Fremont, Ohio, native James Spencer added 32 yards and two rushing scores. He scored the Huskies’ first and last touchdowns with the final score – a one-yard run – icing the game for NIU with 5:39 to play.
After Toledo took the lead for the final time on a 36-yard connection from quarterback Terrance Owens to Bernard Reedy with 8:34 to play in the third quarter, NIU responded with a six-play, 65-yard drive capped by a Lynch 31-yard run for a 21-17 Huskie lead.
The Huskies went into halftime trailing 10-7 after Toledo quarterback Terrrance Owens hit Alonzo Russell with a 45-yard touchdown pass with 51 seconds left in the half.
Mays’ interception, the first of his career, came in the end zone as he picked off running back Kareem Hunt’s pass and returned it to the NIU 10-yard line with 6:27 to play in the second quarter. After a 15-yard face-mask penalty, the Huskies drove 52 yards to the Toledo 23, but Mathew Sims’ 40-yard field goal try was wide right.
Rainey forced a Toledo fumble on the first play of the game to give the Huskies the ball on the Toledo 21-yard line. Three plays later, Spencer ran in from 21 yards out for a touchdown and a 7-0 NIU lead with 13:34 to play in the first quarter.
Two UT possessions later, Ward tipped Terrance Owens’ pass to himself and made the diving interception to give NIU the ball on its own 22. Lynch drove the Huskies to the Toledo six-yard line, but Sims missed a 23-yard field goal; it was the senior’s first miss from inside the 40 yard line on the year.
Toledo got on the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter with a 36-yard field goal from Jeremiah Detmer at the end of a 10-play, 61-yard drive that consumed 3:34 on the clock.
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.