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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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BG wins the MAC Championship for the first time in 21 years against undefeated Northern Illinois University

The BG football team went against the odds and won the Mid-American Conference football championship 47-27 against the Northern Illinois University Huskies Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit.

This is the first time the Falcons have won the MAC football title since 1992.

“It’s a great night to be a Falcon and a great night for [BG] football,” head coach Dave Clawson said. “I’m so proud of our football team. This is a group that just kept working and getting better, and I still think we probably played our best football of the year tonight. It’s a great night for [the University], our athletic program, all of our players. I’m just so happy and so proud.”

The BG defense held NIU’s Heisman hopeful quarterback, Jordan Lynch, to 126 rushing yards and 219 passing yards on 21 completed passes. He attempted 40 passes and threw two interceptions against the BG defense.

“We have great players and great coaches,” Clawson said. “Our defensive staff has done a great job all year. A lot of the same players, three years ago, were 2-10 and they were calling them the ‘Swiss Cheese 11.’ They just worked hard. Sometimes it just takes time to build a program. It takes getting the right people on board and getting the right coaches.”

BG quarterback Matt Johnson stole the national stage from Lynch after throwing for 393 yards and five touchdowns, a new MAC Championship game record previously held by former-Miami University RedHawks quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2003.

Johnson was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

“[Northern Illinois has] a great quarterback that deserves all the accolades that he’s gotten,” Clawson said. “We have a really good quarterback too.”

BG running back Travis Greene ran for 133 yards against Northern Illinois, capturing the BG record for single-season rushing yards with 1,555 yards. The 62-year-old record was set by Fred Durig in 1951.

BG started the game off with a touchdown on its first drive via a 28-yard pass from Johnson to tight end Tyler Beck.

Northern Illinois answered BG with a touchdown of its own off a 14-yard pass from Lynch to wide receiver Juwa Brescacin, tying the game at seven with more than nine minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Following the Huskies’ score, BG started its drive with a 61-yard pass from Johnson to wide receiver Ronnie Moore, but the drive was derailed and the Falcons were forced to kick a 26-yard field goal. Kicker Tyler Tate’s field goal made the score 10-7 with less than seven minutes left in the first quarter.

Following a failed drive by Northern Illinois, BG capitalized on the defense’s success. Following three rushing plays, Johnson threw a 25-yard pass to Moore. On the next play, Johnson connected with Moore again with a 36-yard touchdown pass.

Following the extra point, BG led the Northern Illinois Huskies 17-7. NIU drove down the field and following the quarter break, the Huskies drive stalled and were forced to kick a 51-yard field goal, making the score 17-10.

On BG’s next drive, NIU held BG to a three-and-out and kicked a second-consecutive field goal. The Huskies’ second field goal came from 45 yards out and cut BG’s lead to four points with 13:07 left in the first half.

After NIU’s third field goal of the game, the Huskies attempted an onside kick. However, they were forced to re-kick following two penalties were called on NIU. BG took advantage of the Huskies’ desparate play call on the kick off and scored a touchdown on a 22-yard pass from Johnson to wide receiver Heath Jackson, making the score 24-13.

The Falcons would score another touchdown before the end of the half after defensive lineman Ted Ouelett intercepted a pass from Lynch with 1:05 remaining in the half.

On that sequential drive, Johnson threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bayer with 13 seconds remaining in the half, making the score 31-13 at the end of the second quarter.

BG dominated the second half of the MAC Championship game against Northern Illinois.

The Huskies began the second half with a drive that resulted in a eight-yard touchdown run by Lynch, but Northern Illinois would only score one time after that.

The next two drives by BG and NIU resulted in missed field goals. Tate attempted a 26-yard field goal on BG’s next drive and NIU kicker Mathew Sims missed a 44-yard field goal on the following possession.

The Falcons scored quickly following the start of the fourth quarter, Tate kicked a career-long 52-yard field goal 10 seconds into the final quarter, putting the Falcons ahead 34-20.

Greene was responsible for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter including a six-yard receiving touchdown on a shuffle pass from Johnson and a 16-yard rushing touchdown with less than three minutes remaining in the game.

Lynch scored one last touchdown against the Falcons with 14 seconds remaining in the game, which put the final score at 47-27 in BG’s favor.

“The support we had at the championship game was unbelievable,” Bayer said. “It was maybe the best crowd I’ve seen at a [BG] game.”

The following day, it was announced that BG accepted an invite to the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26, which is also at Ford Field in Detroit. The MAC Champion Falcons will face the University of Pittsburgh Panthers in the second bowl game in two years for BG.

“We have great fan support and we have a great alumni base, where we’ll be able to get a good crowd again,” Bayer said.

Stay tuned to The BG News for more information regarding the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl game.

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