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Daniels, Lynch overcome late fumble

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(AP photo)
NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) scores on a 1-yard run during the third quarter of the MAC Championship game against Kent State.

DETROIT – Jordan Lynch admitted the play was his fault.

Then Akeem Daniels put his mouth up to the microphone at the postgame news conference after Northern Illinois’ 44-37 win over Kent State at the Mid-American Conference Championship game and took the blame as well.

With the Huskies leading the Golden Flashes by seven points with less than five minutes left, Lynch, NIU’s do-everything quarterback, tried to hand off to the junior running back in a read-option play that has worked so well all year.

Unfortunately, the ball didn’t go into Daniels’ hands, and Kent State defensive lineman Zack Hitchens picked it up and ran 22 yards for a touchdown, tying the game and erasing a 14-point deficit.

“I didn’t squeeze the ball, they hit us. It was a good play by them,” Lynch said. “But, I have to be smarter in that situation.”

Lynch didn’t let it get to him, however, and he and Daniels played a big part in the No. 19 Huskies’ double-overtime comeback over the No. 18 Golden Flashes.

After Hitchens’ touchdown, Lynch and Co. marched right down the field, with the junior quarterback going in for a score from 9 yards out. After the Golden Flashes scored to tie the contest again with 44 seconds left and the two teams traded field goals in the first OT, it was Lynch running in from the two-yard line – his third rushing TD of the game – to put NIU ahead for good in the second overtime period.

It was another huge game for Lynch, something that has became practically normal to anyone who follows the Huskies. He finished the contest with 212 passing yards to go with his 160 rushing yards.

After a 43-yard run during the third quarter, Lynch broke Denard Robinson’s NCAA single-season rushing record for quarterbacks.

Daniels played a huge part in both aformentioned drives as well, catching a 43-yard pass from Lynch which led to the go-ahead score in the fourth. He also had a 23-yard scamper in the second overtime that set up Lynch’s third touchdown run.

“I think the o-line did a good job blocking, creating holes for me,” Daniels said. “They were keying on Jordan a lot, so that opened some holes for me.”

Seeing Lynch work his magic is something NIU fans have become accustomed to this season. Friday, he did it in the biggest game of the season, on two of the biggest drives the Huskies have had in 2012.

After a turnover that could have helped send NIU to the buses for a long trip west on I-94, Doeren wasn’t going to lose any confidence in his quarterback, or his running back that ended up running for 128 yards.

“It was a mistake by two great players. That happens every now and then. I can’t flinch or they will,” Doeren said. “So we just kept our resolve. They came over and we said ‘you’re going to get another chance, go do something with it’, and they did.”

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