Despite winning only one game this season, Western Michigan insists its program is headed in the right direction.
"It's disappointing," senior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen said of the 1-11 season. "It's not what we set out to do. But we learned a lot of stuff and the program is going in the right direction."
The program to emulate was on the opposite side of Huskie Stadium as No. 18 Northern Illinois completed its first unbeaten regular season in 50 years with a 33-14 victory over the Broncos on Tuesday night.
Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch broke his single-game FBS rushing record for quarterbacks with 321 yards.
P.J. Fleck helped recruit quarterback Lynch to Northern Illinois so the first-year Western Michigan coach had a good idea what to expect. But no amount of preparation could counter what Lynch delivered on a wintery night.
"Jordan Lynch is the best player in college football and that's no disrespect to anyone else" said Fleck, a former Northern Illinois star receiver and assistant coach. "The reason is he makes every single guy around him better. He is what Northern Illinois is about. ... And with all the pressure, he continues to perform."
Lynch carried the ball 27 times in topping his previous record of 316 yards, set on Oct. 19 against Central Michigan. He established the mark with a 6-yard run with 13:49 to play. He scored on runs of 29, 36 and 37 yards and threw a 10-yard TD.
The Huskies (12-0, 8-0 Mid-American) shook off 17-degree temperatures, brisk winds and occasional light snowfall to extend the nation's longest active home winning streak to 26 games.
The Broncos (1-11, 1-7) dropped their third straight. Running back Dareyon Chance scored one touchdown and Antoin Scriven scored another.
"I'm really proud of our young men," Fleck said. "The way they continued to fight (all season) has really inspired me as a football coach. I'm proud of their determination and their fight.
"We're young, we're inexperienced. We'll be back," he added.
The Huskies, No. 14 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings, also officially locked down their fourth straight West Division title on Tuesday with their 25th straight conference victory. They will meet Bowling Green or Buffalo in the Dec. 6 MAC title game at Detroit's Ford Field.
Northern Illinois' only other unbeaten season was the 1963 team that went 10-0 and won an NCAA College Division championship. The Huskies moved into the major college ranks in 1969.
Running back Cameron Stingily ran 14 times for 49 yards and topped the 1,000 yard mark. It's the first time Northern Illinois has had two 1,000-yard runners in a season. Lynch has 1,755 yards.
"He's been important to us all year," Carey said. "Just because he got 1,000 doesn't validate him because he was already validated."
The Huskies stalled deep in Bronco territory on their opening drive and kicker Matt Sims missed on a 34-yard field goal attempt.
But on the next possession Lynch guided Northern Illinois on an 80-yard, 8-play scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jawan Brescacin for a 7-0 lead with 1:10 left in the first quarter.
Western Michigan moved to the Northern Illinois 1 and survived a goal-line fumble early in the second quarter when Dareyon Chance completed the 12-play, 63-yard drive with a run up the middle to tie it 7-all.
Lynch, a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate, topped the 100-yard rushing mark early in the second quarter and later bolted 29 yards for his 18th rushing touchdown of the year and a 14-7 lead with 9:43 showing.
Lynch struck again with 7:31 left in the half with a 36-yard sprint as he passed 200 yards. Sims' extra point kick failed, leaving Northern Illinois with a 20-7 lead.
Western Michigan was thwarted with 5 seconds showing as Andrew Haldeman's 37-yard field goal try was blocked. On a previous drive Haldeman missed a 42-yard try.
Northern Illinois opened a 23-7 lead on Sims's 23-yard field goal into the wind with 5:38 left in the half.
Lynch scored his third touchdown on a 37-yard run, surpassing 300 yards as the Huskies extended the led to 30-7.
Sims hit a 32-yard field goal with 12:52 to play.
Western Michigan broke a 50-minute scoring drought when Scriven's one-yard touchdown run cut the Northern Illinois lead to 33-14 with 4:40 to play.
Tuesday's game was the final home game for Lynch and 16 other Northern Illinois seniors. It was also the finale for Diesel, a 10-year-old purebred Husky who served team mascot for nine seasons.
Northern Illinois beat Western Michigan for the fifth straight time but the Broncos still lead the overall series 23-16 and are 11-9 in DeKalb.