Northern Illinois Outlasts Kent State in MAC Championship Game
The MAC Championship game served as a BCS buster where the winner between No. 21 Northern Illinois and No. 17 Kent State could crash the BCS party and earn an Orange Bowl berth.
To earn a BCS bid from the MAC a team would need to rank inside the top 16 and finish ranked ahead of an automatic-qualifier and Kent State and NIU are ranked well ahead of Big East champion Louisville.
Each team entered Friday night’s title game with just a lone loss on their record. In fact, NIU is a one-point loss in week 1 at Iowa from a perfect season. Kent State was blown out by a bad Kentucky team but pulled off the program’s first win over a ranked opponent this season in a road win at previously undefeated Rutgers.
Northern Illinois won the MAC Championship game for the second year in a row Friday night in dramatic fashion with a punishing rushing attack led by quarterback Jordan Lynch who broke Denard Robinson’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single-season and had four touchdowns on the evening.
Prior to last season NIU had not won the conference in 28 years. Kent State has waited 40 years for a title, and will have to wait at least one more year after the Huskies dispatched the Golden Flashes.
With five minutes remaining in the game it appeared that the Huskies had the game wrapped up, but a Spencer Keith touchdown run quickly followed up by Lynch fumble scooped up by Kent State for a score tied the game–giving them 14 points in 15 seconds–erasing a 27-13 lead.
That was a sign of a frenetic fourth quarter that saw four touchdowns scored–three coming from the Golden Flashes–to force overtime for the first time ever in the history of the MAC Championship Game.
The win by NIU opens the door for a potential BCS bowl berth and head coach Dave Doeren raises his stock for a higher profile job after his second MAC title in as many years if he wants it.
However, the threat of Doeren bolting is the furthest thing from the minds of the fans and players who are reveling in victory and dreams of a BCS bowl berth dancing in their heads.
The Huskies will know on Sunday whether they’ve busted down the doors to a BCS bowl game for the first time in school history.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and an avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com airing live on Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.