BGSU football takes on NIU in MAC Championship game friday

Sports Editor and Sports Editor

For the BG football team, everything comes down to tonight’s Mid-American Conference Championship game against the nationally-ranked Northern Illinois University Huskies in Detroit.

“We are playing what has been the premier program in the MAC,” head coach Dave Clawson said. “You don’t go 12-0 in the regular season by accident. You don’t get to four-consecutive MAC Championship games because you’re lucky.”

Northern Illinois has won 12-straight games dating back to its 31-10 loss to the then-ranked No. 12 Florida State University Seminoles in the Discover Orange Bowl Jan. 1.

Northern Illinois hasn’t lost to a MAC opponent since its 48-41 loss to Central Michigan University Oct. 1, 2011.

In 2010, No. 25-ranked Northern Illinois faced the Miami University RedHawks. The Huskies took a 21-20 lead over Miami with 14:54 remaining in the game.

However, Miami quarterback Austin Boucher had different plans. With 33 seconds remaining in the game Boucher threw a game-winning, 33-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Armand Robinson.

The 2011 edition of the MAC Championship game was another classic game in MAC history.

Northern Illinois took on the Ohio University Bobcats, who led the Huskies 20-0 at halftime. During the second half, NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish, now with the Indianapolis Colts, threw three passing touchdowns, but due to a missed extra point attempt, the game was tied at 20 with 2:52 left in the game.

Following a failed drive by the Bobcats, the Huskies got the ball with 1:34 left to play. Northern Illinois drove down the field, allowing kicker Mathew Sims to kick a 33-yard field goal as time expired to win the 2011 MAC Championship.

If the 2010 and 2011 MAC Championship games weren’t exciting enough, the 2012 edition would be remembered as one of the most, if not the most, memorable since the inception of the MAC Championship game in 1997.

NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch led the Huskies to 12-straight wins, a No. 21 national ranking and a third-straight MAC West title.

Northern Illinois saw itself against the No. 17-ranked Kent State University Golden Flashes. This was the first time the two divisional champions were ranked since the 2003 matchup between the No. 13-ranked Miami RedHawks and No. 20-ranked BG Falcons.

With both teams ranked in the top 25, a new factor was thrown into the mix — BCS bowl implications.

After taking a 34-27 lead with 3:12 left in the game, Northern Illinois was unable to prevent Kent State from scoring. With 44 seconds remaining, Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith threw a 19-yard pass to Tim Erjavec to tie the game at 34.

The Golden Flashes forced the Huskies to the first overtime game the MAC Championship’s 16-year history.

After both teams kicked field goals in the first overtime, NIU running back Akeem Daniels ran the ball 23-yards on the first play of the second overtime period. Daniels’ 23-yard run set up a two-yard rushing touchdown by Lynch to put NIU ahead of Kent State 44-37.

Kent State was able to get a second chance thanks to a pass interference penalty on its first third down play of the drive. However, after a two-yard rush and two incomplete passes, NIU’s Demetrius Stone intercepted Keith’s pass on fourth down, giving the Huskies’ their second-straight conference title.

Later, Northern Illinois was given a bowl bid to the Discover Orange Bowl, marking the first MAC team to play in a BCS bowl.

This year, Northern Illinois is lined up for another BCS bowl bid because the Fresno State University Bulldogs lost their chance after losing to the San Jose State University Spartans 62-52 this past Friday and dropping to No. 23 in the BCS rankings.

Fresno’s loss helped move NIU to No. 14 in the BCS rankings, which is the cut-off for a non-automatically qualifying team.

Northern Illinois’ biggest weapon is Lynch, who is being considered for the annual Heisman Trophy award given out next Saturday.

Lynch is a dominant force as a passer and a runner. He has thrown for 2,457 yards and rushed for 1,755 yards, which is 748 more than the starting running back Cameron Stingily.

On top of the amazing stats he boasts, Lynch has set six NCAA records in the past two years including most rushing yards by a quarterback in a game with 316 yards against Central Michigan on Oct. 19, most rushing yards by a quarterback 1,815 yards in 2012, most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback with 12 in 2012 and most consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback with 11 in 2012.

He also set the record as the only quarterback to rush for 1,500 yards and pass for 3,000 yards in a season, with 3,138 passing yards and 1,815 rushing yards in 2012, and the only player to pass for 400 yards and rush for 150 yards in a game, in which he threw for 407 yards and rushed for 162 yards against Toledo on Nov. 14, 2012.

Lynch is also on pace to set a new NCAA record for most rushing yards per game by a quarterback in a season, averaging 146.25 rushing yards per game. His 129.6 rushing yards per game in 2012 is ranked third on the list.

Beau Morgan of the United States Air Force Academy set the record of 135.8 rushing yards per game in 1996.

“It’s very easy to get caught up in Jordan Lynch,” Clawson said. “He certainly deserves every accolade that he has received. But to say that he’s the whole football team would really not be fair.”

The main goal for the Falcons will be to stop Lynch and the Northern Illinois rushing attack, which is ranked No. 4 in the nation with an average of 318.9 rushing yards per game.

BG’s defense gives up an average of 134.8 rushing yards per game, which is No. 28 in the nation.

However, it only gives up an average of 161.8 passing yards per game, making them the nation’s fourth best behind Florida Atlantic University (161.1 per game), the University of Louisville (159.6 per game) and Florida State University (153.0 per game).

This will be an area in which BG has the advantage because Northern Illinois averages only 223.4 passing yards per game, which is No. 72 in the country.

With the given facts, BG’s defense has proven to be NIU’s most challenging this season. The Huskies have only faced one opponent who’s total defense is ranked in the upper half of the FBS — Iowa.

Iowa’s defense in currently ranked No. 9 in the nation, only two places behind BG’s defense. The Hawkeyes, who averaged 303.2 yards per game, allowed 438 yards against Northern Illinois, 163 of which were rushing. This was NIU’s lowest rushing total in a game all season, and defeated Iowa on a field goal with four seconds remaining.

BG’s offense has been more successful this season than Northern Illinois’ defense. Although the Huskies only give up an average of 147.9 rushing yards per game, they give up an average of 264.2 passing yards, putting them at No. 108 in the country.

BG’s offense also never scored less than 24 points against MAC opponents and 10 points against non-conference opponents. NIU’s defense allows an average of 23.6 points per game 35 points against the University of Idaho, who went 1-11 this season, and 39 points against Eastern Illinois University, a FCS opponent.

Despite the hype, Northern Illinois is only favored by three points, which is a testament of BG’s dominance on defense.

“This has always been known as an offensive league and there’s always more than two thirds of the teams that are in the top half in offensive numbers,” Clawson said. “I’m proud of our defense and I think they are respected and they deserve it.”

The MAC Championship game in Detroit between BG and Northern Illinois is set to kick off at 8 p.m. and tickets are still available online.

Follow @BGNewsSports for live updates from Ford Field through out the day and game.