DeKalb, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Jordan Lynch threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 123 yards and two scores on 20 carries to help keep No. 20 Northern Illinois perfect on the season with a 48-27 triumph over Ball State on Wednesday at Huskie Stadium.
Lynch's 36-yard scoring strike to Da'Ron Brown broke a 27-27 tie with 5:49 remaining, and after the NIU defense stopped Ball State on 4th-and-1, the senior signal-caller surged in from 16 yards out to make it a two-score game.
Joe Windsor returned a Keith Wenning interception 49 yards for a touchdown to cap the scoring, as Northern Illinois (10-0, 6-0 MAC) kept its hopes for a potential BCS bowl bid alive.
Lynch completed all but six of his 32 passes, while Brown finished with 209 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches for the Huskies, who hold a one-game lead atop the West Division thanks to their 23rd consecutive conference win.
"I feel like I'm improving every week, in my passing game, my running game, some of the checks I'm making," Lynch said. "I still think the best is yet to come for me and this team. It was a great victory tonight."
Wenning threw for 324 yards and a touchdown on 35-of-49 passing and also added a rushing score for the Cardinals (9-2, 6-1), who could have clinched a berth in the MAC championship game with a victory.
Jahwan Edwards racked up 156 yards and a touchdown on 29 totes in defeat.
Brown nearly became the goat of the game after fumbling at the Ball State 13 at the end of a 53-yard completion early in the fourth, but the NIU defense forced a Ball State punt to give possession back to Lynch and the offense.
Lynch broke free for 24 yards on the second play of NIU's ensuing drive before spinning out of a sack on 3rd-and-11 and finding Matt Williams for 25 yards and a fresh set of downs at the Ball State 37.
Two plays later, Lynch got the defense to bite on a play-fake before hitting Brown in-stride for the tiebreaking score.
Wenning then moved the Cardinals inside NIU territory, but on 4th-and-1 from the 44-yard line, Edwards was stacked up behind the line to end the drive.
"We didn't make enough plays of our own to keep drives alive on third down or fourth and short," Ball State head coach Pete Lembo said. "That was the difference in the game."
Lynch then led the Huskies on a 7-play drive that ended with his 16-yard TD run before Windsor's interception return for a score two play later accounted for the final margin.
Early on, Mathew Sims drilled a 34-yard field goal on NIU's second touch to make it 3-0, but Wenning answered with a 3-yard scoring strike to Willie Snead to give Ball State a 7-3 lead.
Lynch and Wenning exchanged touchdown runs early in the second, with Lynch scoring from two yards out and Wenning finding the end zone for a yard away to make it 14-10 Ball State with just over 10 minutes left in the half.
Sims kicked a 20-yard field goal on the Huskies' next possession to bring the team within one, but the Cardinals found the end zone again on their next drive, as Edwards surged in from five yards out to push the margin to 21-13 with 1:28 left in the half.
Lynch answered on NIU's next play from scrimmage, as he flipped a screen out to his right for Brown, who sprinted 58 yards untouched into the end zone to bring the Huskies within 21-20 late in the half.
With 1:13 to work, Wenning guided the Cardinals down to the NIU 26, setting up Scott Secor's 43-yard field goal that sent Ball Sate into the break with a 24-20 edge.
Lynch orchestrated a lengthy 17-play drive to open the second half, converting a pair of third downs before picking up a 4th-and-1 from his own 47 with a 6- yard surge into Ball State territory.
Facing 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line later in the drive, the offense again stayed on the field and Cameron Stingily surged into the end zone to put NIU on top, 27-24, with 8:31 left in the third.
Secor connected on a 19-yard field goal on Ball State's next series to even the score.
NIU has won 25 straight home games and hasn't lost a conference game since its 2011 MAC opener ... Ball State owns a slim 20-19-2 all-time series lead ... Snead finished with 12 catches for 121 yards ... NIU finished 2-for-2 on fourth down and 6-for-12 on third down ... Ball State compiled 29 first downs compared to 28 for NIU.