DETROIT – Northern Illinois’ dream season has ended.
The Huskies’ hopes of going to the Fiesta Bowl are gone after a stunning 47-27 loss to Bowling Green in Friday’s Mid-American Conference Championship Game at Ford Field.
An NIU defense that had kept improving as the season went on could not stop the Falcons (10-3), specifically in the first half, and the Huskies (12-1) couldn’t rally from an 18-point halftime deficit.
Jordan Lynch, who looked like he would be in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, might now be on the outside looking in when it comes to getting a trip to the Big Apple.
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green’s sophomore quarterback, was the star Friday. He finished the game 21 of 27 for 393 yards and five touchdowns, throwing for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone.
“You guys are all shocked,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said to the group of assembled media after the game. “We thought we were going to win. We really did. We would have been absolutely crushed if we didn’t win this game.”
Johnson got the Falcons on the board on Bowling Green’s first drive, with a 28-yard pass to Tyler Beck. NIU answered when Juwan Brescacin caught a one-handed, 14-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Lynch on the Huskies’ first drive.
However, the Falcons added three more Johnson touchdown passes and a 26-yard field goal from Tyler Tate before the teams went into the locker room at halftime.
The only other first-half scoring for the Huskies came with two field goals by Mathew Sims – from 51 and 45 yards out.
NIU took the ball to start the second half and drove at will, with the drive ending in a Lynch 8-yard touchdown run.
The Falcons added a 52-yard field goal by Tyler Tate, which tied a MAC Championship record, and the game effectively was put out of reach on a 6-yard shovel pass from Johnson to running back Travis Greene early in the fourth quarter. A Greene 16-yard score all but ended the game. Lynch would score on a 2-yard run with 14 seconds left.
Greene’s first score came off of a rare turnover by Lynch. Facing a second-and-13 from NIU’s own 31, he had Tommylee Lewis down the sideline, but underthrew him and the pass was picked off by Aaron Foster. Lynch, who had not thrown an interception since NIU’s win against Central Michigan on Oct. 19, had two interceptions Friday.
Bowling Green’s win gave the Falcons their first MAC championship since 1992.
NIU will have some regrouping to do. The Huskies will find out which bowl they’re heading to Sunday.
“One game doesn’t define a season in any way, shape or form,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “And we’re not going to let it. We’ve got another game yet, don’t know where that is yet, but we do have another game. Still a lot to play for.”