Rapid Reaction: N. Illinois 31, Toledo 24

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
12:19
AM CT
DeKALB, Ill. -- The Northern Illinois Huskies weren’t going to allow their worst offensive first half of the season deter them from their third consecutive Mid-American Conference West Division title on Wednesday.

After scoring just once against the Toledo Rockets in the opening half, the Huskies emerged in the third quarter with three unanswered touchdowns and pulled out a 31-24 victory at Huskie Stadium to clinch the MAC West title and win their 21st consecutive home game.

It was over when: After taking over possession at their own 1-yard line in the third quarter, the Huskies drove 99 yards on nine plays, culminating with an 11-yard pass from Jordan Lynch to Perez Ashford for a touchdown. Northern Illinois went ahead 21-14 with the touchdown and extra point, and Toledo never challenged the Huskies again. Northern Illinois outscored the Rockets 21-0 in the quarter and accumulated 347 yards to Toledo’s 69 yards.

Player of the game: Lynch continued to make a case for himself as an outside Heisman Trophy candidate. And on Wednesday, he showed off his arm more than his legs.

Lynch was 25-of-36 passing with a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for a team-high 162 yards on 30 carries. It was Lynch’s ninth consecutive game of rushing for a 100-plus yards, which extended his NCAA record for quarterbacks.

Stat of the game: In the third quarter alone, Lynch completed 13 of 15 passes for 295 yards, with two touchdowns.

Unsung hero of the game: Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward was all over the field. He led the Huskies with 11 tackles, forced a fumble and had an interception.

Play of the game: On the opening play of the third quarter, Lynch threw a short pass to Martel Moore on the right side. Moore caught the ball and turned up field. One defender hit him and Moore stumbled, but he put his right hand on the ground to keep his balance and continued moving forward. He quickly took another hit and again was close to falling to the ground. He put both of his hands -- including his left, which was underneath the ball -- onto the ground to keep himself up, regained his balance and sprinted past Toledo’s defense for a 73-yard score.

What it means: Northern Illinois remained the kings of the MAC. The Huskies have now won 15 consecutive conference games, which included last year’s MAC championship game. The East has some quality teams, but Northern Illinois has to be favored again in this year’s title game, which is Nov. 30.
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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