Created:Saturday, December 3, 2011 12:20 a.m.CDT
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Kicker Sims makes up for missed PAT

By ANTHONY ZILIS - sports@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois kicker Mathew Sims celebrates his game-winning field goal Friday in the MAC title game in Detroit, Mich. (AP photo)

DETROIT – At the most important moment in what has otherwise been a good season, Mathew Sims thought he had let his team down.

He’d worked so hard to get to this point. He had to battle through training camp just to get the job after doubting he would all offseason.

Now, the all-MAC first team selection, the game-winning field goal against Ball State, and all of the other moments that would have left the sophomore glowing in the offseason appeared like they may mean little.

Something was just different before he lined up for an extra point with 7:36 remaining in the MAC Championship game, the score 20-13.

He’d been successful making extra points all 55 times he’d taken them this season.

This one, though, meant so much. Make the kick and the Huskies were within a touchdown of their first MAC Championship in 28 years. Miss it, they’d need more.

“I lost focus. For a split second, I started thinking about something else,” Sims said. “I started thinking about the rest of the game, winning by one point, and I just toed it. I lost focus.”

The first team all-MAC kicker shanked the extra point to the left.

He was stunned.

“I let my teammates down,” Sims said. “I felt horrible I missed that extra point.”

The Huskies did indeed score again and tied it at 20.

The nightmare scenario for Sims was playing out. With just 2:52 remaining, the game could very well go to overtime. But the Huskies forced a three-and-out.

Quarterback Chandler Harnish and the Huskies’ offense drove down the field with ease, just as they had been doing all second half.

With five seconds left, Sims had a chance to erase the nightmare.

With all the thoughts that were racing through his head, coach Dave Doeren’s words of advice were simple.

“I said, ‘Just have fun, do what you do,’” Doeren said. “I knew he was going to make it. When he came off I could tell he was mad about the extra point. I said, don’t worry about it, you’ll make up for it.”

All that stood between depression and pure elation was a 26-yard field goal.

“I knew I couldn’t let them down twice in a row,” Sims said. “We fought too hard, our seniors came back, I knew I had to make that kick for them.”

The kick sailed through the uprights as time expired.

He felt pure relief and elation.

“Once I saw it go through the uprights,” he said “I was on cloud nine.”

Will the NIU football team play for the MAC title this year?
Yes
No
Too soon to tell