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Northern Illinois-Kent State quarter-by-quarter breakdown

By JEFF ARNOLD - jarnold@shawmedia.com
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First quarter
Key play:
Kent State’s special teams stripping Northern Illinois’ Angelo Sebastiano on a punt return that set up the Golden Flashes deep in Huskies’ territory. Kent State needed only three plays to score the game’s first points on Dri Archer’s 15-yard run.

Key stat: 10 - The number of first downs Kent State’s offense generated on only 15 offensive plays.

Analysis: Kent State’s swarming defense was effective in containing NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, sacking him twice. The Golden Flashes used an NIU fumble and a poor punt to work on a short field, grabbing a quick 10-0 lead before Lynch and the Huskies’ offense finally got warmed up in the final four minutes of the quarter.

Second quarter
Key play:
Lynch’s 8-yard run with NIU facing third-and-seven that kept a 12-play scoring drive alive. Akeem Daniels’ 1-yard touchdown run six plays later gave the Huskies a 17-10 lead.

Key stat: Two – The number of offensive yards amassed by the Golden Flashes in the quarter as Northern Illinois’ defense did a solid job of getting to Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith and containing Archer.

Analysis: What a difference a quarter can make. After their first three drives of the game resulted in punts, NIU’s offense woke up in the second quarter, effectively moving the ball in its patented no-huddle offense that resulted in a pair of touchdowns. The only mistake was Lynch’s overthrow that resulted in an interception and that kept the Huskies from extending their lead.


Third quarter
Key play:
Lynch’s 43-yard run on fourth and inches. The scamper broke Denard Robinson’s single-season NCAA FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback and set up a 1-yard Lynch touchdown run.

Key stat: 132 – Number of rushing yards by Lynch through three quarters, marking the 12th time this season he has run for at least 100 yards.

Analysis: Anyone who thought NIU was crazy for launching a Heisman Trophy campaign for Lynch got to see why the school did. Lynch was methodical in guiding the Huskies down the field for a touchdown that gave the Huskies a two-touchdown cushion and gave NIU’s impressive defense even more breathing room.

Fourth quarter
Key play:
Keith's 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tim Erjavec with 44 seconds left that tied the game at 34, forcing overtime for the first time in the history of the MAC Championship game.

Key stat: 15 seconds – The amount of time Kent State needed to score two touchdowns to erase a 14-point deficit, tying the game at 27.

Analysis: NIU appeared to have its second straight MAC title all but wrapped up before the final few minutes of regulation turned into a game of backyard football. The Huskies needed only 1 minute, 26 seconds to march 75 yards before Kent State answered, using the 19-yard Keith touchdown pass to Erjavec to tie the score with 44 seconds left.


Overtime
Key play:
Daniels' 23-yard run in double overtime that set up Lynch's third touchdown of the night - the game-winner.

Key stat: 2-for-2 – Northern Illinois defense on fourth down. The Huskies' first stop preserved a fourth-quarter lead and the second – capped by Demetrius Stone's interception in the end zone in double overtime – gave the Huskies' their second straight MAC title.

Analysis: On Thursday, NIU coach Dave Doeren talked of just how evenly matched the MAC is this season. The two overtime periods Friday night proved it, highlighting two offenses that both have big-time playmakers, capable of striking at any time. But the NIU defense - which couldn't get off the field in the fourth quarter – came up big in the second overtime.

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