TOLEDO, Ohio – Northern Illinois will head to Detroit for the fourth straight season.
With Wednesday's 35-17 win over Toledo at the Glass Bowl, the Huskies clinched the Mid-American Conference West Division for the fourth consecutive year. No matter what happens against Western Michigan on Tuesday, the Huskies will try to win their third straight MAC championship at Ford FIeld on Dec. 6.
"Man, I feel like that's our second home," NIU safety Jimmie Ward said. "Every year since I've been here, going on four years straight. Messed up, lost the first one, (in 2010 against Miami) but we got another shot at it (the past two years). Hopefully we go up there and play well."
The No. 16 Huskies (11-0, 7-0 MAC) overcame three first-half missed field goals by normally reliable kicker Mathew Sims to come home with the victory.
NIU scored on its first possession of the game, when tailback James Spencer ran for a 19-yard touchdown.
The Toledo (7-4, 5-2 MAC) offense shot itself in the foot early on, with turnovers on two of its first four possessions.
In the second quarter, the Rockets would commit their third turnover of the first half when tailback Kareem Hunt, on third-and-goal from the NIU 2-yard line, took a snap out of the wildcat formation and threw a pass, which was intercepted by Huskie linebacker Boomer Mays.
However, Toledo would take a 10-7 lead on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Owens to wideout Alonzo Russell, who was wide open down the right sideline, with 51 seconds left in the second quarter.
But in the second half, NIU took over. Once again, Lynch took control. The senior quarterback, playing in front of a national audience for the second consecutive week, finished the contest with 161 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, and was 17 of 22 through the air for 202 yards. He didn't throw an interception.
The key drive came after Toledo punted from inside the NIU 40-yard line, downing the ball at the NIU 1. The Huskies didn't flinch, driving all the way down the field and finishing it off with a 1-yard touchdown dive by Lynch.
"Honestly, we practice that every day in practice, 99-yard drives," Lynch said. "That's a momentum-killer, it's a dagger to the other defense."
All of his rushing touchdowns came after halftime with the others being a 12-yard run and a 31-yard scamper.
Lynch completed 77 percent of his throws despite missing two of his key receivers. Tommylee Lewis travelled to Toledo but didn't play due to a toe injury, while Da'Ron Brown, who has a hamstring injury, tried to play but left the game in the first half.
Sophomore Juwan Brescacin was the guy who stepped up, catching eight passes for 121 yards.
"I knew I was going to play a big part. I just had in my head that I need to make plays," Brescacin said. "I definitely knew that I had to step up, I've been kind of quiet this year. When the plays came to me I made them."