DETROIT – Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren has shown little hesitation throughout the season to leave his offense on the field in fourth-down situations.
Such was the case in Friday’s Mid-American Conference Championship game as the Huskies converted two crucial fourth downs, both of which led to points.
“I’ve said that all year, if we get to fourth and short, and the field position situation doesn’t hurt our defense, then we’re going to try to go,” Doeren said.
Doeren sent out the field-goal unit on 4th-and-3 from the Kent State 30-yard line late in the first quarter.
But after calling a timeout, NIU’s offense lined up and QB Jordan Lynch converted with a 17-yard run that would eventually lead to NIU’s first field goal.
In the third quarter, Lynch again converted on fourth down, running 43 yards and setting up his own one-yard touchdown plunge to put NIU up, 24-13.
“We got some critical touchdowns after fourth-down and third-down conversions,” Doeren said.
Lynch’s record run: With a mere 92 yards remaining between Jordan Lynch and the FBS single-season rushing record for quarterbacks, it was inevitable that the junior quarterback would break Denard Robinson’s mark of 1,703 yards in the MAC Championship or the Huskies’ future bowl game.
Lynch ran into the record books on his 43-yard scamper in the third quarter, and finished with 160 yards rushing on the night.
Lynch now has 1,771 rushing yards on the year.
“All the credit goes the offense and the offensive play calling, putting us in the right situation,” Lynch said. “My teammates, without them it’s not possible.”
Sims’ clutch kicks: Mat Sims had already kicked in a pressure situation at Ford Field.
The junior kicker made the game-winning field goal in 2011, a 33-yarder that gave NIU its first MAC title since 1983.
On Friday, Sims again came through in the clutch, nailing three field goals and five extra points. He made two relative chip shots from inside 30 yards during regulation and calmly nailed a 40-yard field goal in the first overtime with the Huskies down by three.
“Our kicker made a clutch kick tonight,” Doeren said.
Wells’ early catches: The numbers for junior wide receiver Jamison Wells don’t pop off the stat sheet.
But he made two critical catches early in the game that helped NIU dig out of a 10-point deficit.
Both receptions came on 3rd-and-10 situations, and Wells’ second grab – a 12-yard pass in traffic across the middle – kept the Huskies’ fourth possession alive, eventually resulting in a 27-yard field goal from kicker Mat Sims.