DeKalb, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Jordan Lynch rushed for a whopping 321 yards with three touchdowns as No. 18 Northern Illinois closed out a perfect regular season with a 33-14 win over Western Michigan on Tuesday.
A dark horse Heisman candidate, Lynch carried the ball 27 times and broke his own NCAA FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback, and also went 5-for-17 for 39 yards and a touchdown for the Huskies (12-0, 8-0 MAC), who clinched the West Division and will play either Bowling Green or Buffalo in the MAC championship game on Dec. 6.
"Jordan, we ask a lot of him, and he responds every time," said Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey. "He's the recipient of a lot of things, and we ask a lot of guys to do stuff, so we're really pleased. But I will follow that up with saying this, I've said it, and I sound like a broken record, but if he's not in the Heisman conversation, I guess I don't know what a Heisman is or should be, because to me, that's exactly what it is, what you saw tonight."
NIU has won 25 straight conference games and 26 straight games at home, both of which are the nation's longest.
Dareyon Chance and Antoin Scriven each had a rushing touchdown for the Broncos (1-11, 1-7), who closed out their first season under P.J. Fleck with three straight losses.
"I don't care what our record is," said Fleck. "In this day and age and in this world, everyone worries about the wins and losses and thats what we do. We get hired to get fired, that's what coaches do. It's being around a group of men that continue to fight."
Northern Illinois got into scoring position on its first touch and lined up for a field goal, but Matthew Sims missed the 34-yarder to keep the game scoreless.
The Huskies' second touch, though, bore fruit as the 8-play, 80-yard drive was capped when Lynch tossed a pass to the left corner of the end zone where Juwan Brescacin out-worked the defender for a 10-yard score. Lynch had runs of 19 and 11 yards prior to the touchdown.
Western Michigan countered with a long drive to tie the game, as the 12-play, 63-yard march was capped when Chance took a pitch out to the right and pushed through the pile for a 1-yard score four minutes into the second.
Northern Illinois came right back, though, to take the lead for good thanks to the legs of Lynch, who kept the ball himself and ran up the middle before cutting to the left on a 29-yard score with 9:43 left in the first half.
Following a quick three-and-out from Western Michigan, Lynch scored again on a similar run, this one from 36 yards out. The extra point was missed, though, and it was a 20-7 game with 7:31 to play.
The last play of the half was Western Michigan's Andrew Haldeman line up for a 37-yard field goal, but it was blocked.
The Broncos pulled off an onside kick to start the second half, recovering just past midfield, but failed on a 4th-and-1 to turn the ball over.
The Huskies followed that with an 18-play, 68-yard drive that covered almost 7 1/2 minutes and was finished on a 23-yard field goal from Sims for a 23-7 advantage with 5:30 to play.
Later in the third, Northern Illinois got the Western Michigan 37 and the next snap saw Lynch take it all the way for a 30-7 lead with 1:36 left in the third.
Sims hit a 32-yard field goal in the fourth, while Scriven punched the ball in from a yard out for Western Michigan later in the fourth to make the game a bit more respectable.
The Broncos hold a 23-16 series advantage, but the Huskies have won the past five games ... Zach Teller was 13-for-26 for 139 yards for Western Michigan, while Kendrick Roberts led all receivers with six catches for 89 yards in the loss ... Not one Northern Illinois receiver had more than one catch.