Friday saw the shattering of one team's BCS dreams and the possible berth for another, as the No. 21 Northern Illinois Huskies defeated the No. 17 Kent State Golden Flashes, 44-37, in a double-overtime thriller to capture the 2012 MAC championship.
The Huskies' game-winning score came on a two-yard run by quarterback Jordan Lynch, who undoubtedly had one of the best nights of his young career. The dual-threat quarterback completed 19-of-34 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown against one interception, but it was his 160 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground that truly proved to be the difference.
While the game wound up being a thrilling victory for Northern Illinois, it certainly didn't start as planned.
After trading quick possessions for much of the early going, Kent State scored the game's opening touchdown on a drive spurred by an Angelo Sebastiano fumbled punt. The Flashes took advantage of more good field position on their next drive and went ahead, 10-0, on a field goal in the first quarter.
After those early hiccups, Northern Illinois mostly dominated the remainder of the contest.
The Huskies consistently marched down the field for the remainder of the first half, scoring their first touchdown on a 14-yard-touchdown strike from Lynch to Martel Moore as part of a 17-point run.
Northern Illinois continued its run through the third quarter, tacking on another 10 points against just three for Kent State to head into the last 15 minutes with a comfortable 27-13 lead. With the teams back on a trading-possessions trend in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Huskies would just drain the time and come away with an easy win.
However, just when you thought Northern Illinois had wrapped up the game, Kent State came roaring back late in the fourth quarter.
A 60-yard bomb to Dri Archer gave the Flashes their first huge play of the game and catalyzed a drive that finished with a five-yard Spencer Keith touchdown run. On the very next Huskies possession, a fumble on a botched handoff led to a 22-yard recovery and score for Zack Hitchens, tying the game at 27-27.
After Lynch brought his team soaring right back down the field and ran the ball in from nine yards out, it seemed the final nail had finally been put in the Flashes' coffin.
But as we saw all Friday night, resiliency was the name of the game for Kent State. Keith drove his offense expertly down the field and connected on a beautiful 19-yard score to Tim Erjavec to send the game to overtime.
Unfortunately, it just was not meant to be for the Flashes.
Friday night's win gives the Huskies their 12th consecutive on the season and a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl berth. With the team's fate hanging in the hands of the rankers, Dave Doeren's club will have some white-knuckled times ahead.
Either way, winning a conference championship is certainly a crowning achievement for the Huskies.
A scintillating performance is nothing new for the MAC, as this is the third straight championship game to be decided in the final 33 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Information:
This is the 3rd-straight MAC Championship Game that was decided in final 33 seconds #MACtion— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 1, 2012
Friday night proved to be more than just a conference championship for Jordan Lynch, as he broke Denard Robinson's record for most rushing yards in a season for a quarterback, per ESPN Stats & Information:
Jordan Lynch has passed Denard Robinson for the most rushing yards by an FBS QB in a single season #MACtion— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 1, 2012
With his 160-yard performance, Lynch's total now stands at 1,771, breaking Robinson's 2010 mark of 1,702 yards rushing.
The National Football Post's Dave Miller piled onto the Lynch praise, saying he should be a Heisman candidate:
It would be an absolute travesty if Jordan Lynch is not in NYC for the Heisman ceremony.— Dave Miller (@Miller_Dave) December 1, 2012
Though Dri Archer certainly didn't have a banner game, he still put up 96 total yards and scored a touchdown. That 15-yard scamper led USA Today's Paul Myerberg to describe Archer like so:
Tackling Dri Archer is like drinking coffee with a fork.— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) December 1, 2012
Of all the tweets on Friday night, it was Pac-12 Digital's Bryan D. Fischer's that summed the game up best:
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