Trailing by 10 points early in the fourth quarter, Northern Illinois scored the final 17 points of the game as the Huskies knocked off Kansas, 30-23, on Saturday afternoon at Huskie Stadium.
Redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) threw for 235 yards on 23-of-35 passing with two touchdowns while running for 134 yards on 22 carries as NIU won its 17th consecutive game at Huskie Stadium.
“I’m proud of the way we finish games around here,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren.
“I think it’s the way they’re coached; the way they believe in the leadership that our players have taken, and taken themselves, on the field. I can look at every man eye-to-eye on the sideline and know that I’m going to get what I want out of them, what I ask of them, in the fourth quarter.”
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Lynch through a pass to the left sideline that was intercepted and taken back 54 yards for a touchdown by Tyler Patmon, giving Kansas a 23-13 lead.
Doeren attributed the interception to a miscommunication on the route by receiver Martel Moore (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren), but Moore quickly atoned for the error.
On the first play of the ensuing possession, the Huskies responded as Lynch connected with Moore on a Tim Tebow-esque jump pass over the middle and Moore out ran the KU defense the rest of the way for a 65 yard score. Mathew Sims‘ (Hannibal, Mo./Hannibal) extra point was good and the Jayhawk lead was cut to just three, 23-20, with 14:23 to play.
Moore finished with a game-high 105 receiving yards on five catches, recording his second-straight 100-yard receiving game.
On the following drive Kansas drove into NIU territory but, helped by a third down sack from junior defensive end Joe Windsor (Kearney, Mo./Kearney), saw their drive stall, turning the ball over on downs at the Huskie 29-yard line.
After moving the ball inside the Kansas 30, Northern Illinois settled for a 44-yard field goal by Sims, tying his career-long, and tying the game at 23 with just under eight minutes to play.
Fueled by another Windsor sack, the NIU defense quickly forced a three-and-out, giving the ball back to Lynch and the Huskie offense.
It took the Huskies just 2:13 and seven plays to go 53 yards, capped by a two-yard touchdown run from junior running back Leighton Settle (Madison, Wis./Madison West/Fresno City CC), giving NIU a 30-23 lead with 4:33 to play. Settle had four carries for 24 yards on the drive and finished the contest with 68 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Kansas had two more chances with the football but was unable to get a single first down, turning the ball over on downs for the final time with two minutes to go.
Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist was 10-of-26 passing for 147 yards. He was sacked four times by the NIU defense. James Sims gained 91 yards on 18 carries and had two touchdowns for the Jayhawks.
“Winning a BCS game is what that was all about,” said Doeren. “I felt like we had our opportunities against Kansas last year, against Iowa in the opener. We didn’t find a way to win. That’s what we’ve done – find a way to win. I wanted that bad; I wanted a piece of history on our locker room wall. I walk in our locker room and I see the MAC Championship we put up last year that we earned. I just never got to see a dog bone with my signature on it. Now I have that.”
Kansas opened the scoring on its first drive of the contest with a 26-yard field goal from Ron Doherty. The Jayhawks marched 72 yards on 12 plays and reached the NIU nine before the drive stalled and Kansaswas forced to settle for three points.
NIU responded on the next drive with a four-yard touchdown pass from Lynch to sophomore Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer) to take a 6-3 lead. The Huskies went 55 yards in 13 plays, highlighted by a 17-yard Lynch run on a third-and-two, but Sims missed the extra point attempt and the Huskies led by just three.
On its first drive of the second quarter, Kansas regained the lead with a four-play, 86-yard drive, capped by a 26-yard Sims touchdown rush, giving the Jayhawks a 10-6 lead two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter. The drive began with back-to-back pass completions of 21 and 33 yards, respectively, before a six-yard Chris Matthews rush and Sims’ 26-yard touchdown carry.
The Huskies reclaimed the lead, 13-10, with 1:38 to play before halftime. Junior running back Akeem Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola) cashed in for NIU with a three-yard run, capping a 77-yard drive in which 68 of the yards were gained on the ground.
NIU returns to Huskie Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 29, when it hosts the Mid-American Conference opener against Central Michigan. Game time against the Chippewas is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., and the contest will be available on ESPN3.