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TOLEDO, Ohio – Jordan Lynch rushed for three touchdowns and 161 yards to lead No. 20 Northern Illinois over Toledo 35-17 on Wednesday night, securing a fourth consecutive trip to the Mid-American Conference title game.
Lynch's third touchdown, a 1-yard dive into the end zone, capped a 99-yard drive that stretched the lead to 28-17. The Huskies started the fourth quarter backed up against their end zone, clinging to a four-point lead.
That's when Lynch took control.
He ran for 62 yards on seven carries during the drive, the big play coming when he scrambled out of the end zone to pick up a first down.
The Huskies (11-0, 7-0 MAC) extended their 24-game conference winning streak and are off to the best start in school history.
Lynch was 17 of 22 for 202 yards passing and ran for 161 yards on 28 carries. He is 23-2 as a starter. Juwan Brescacin had eight receptions for 121 yards.
Northern Illinois is still in the hunt for a second straight Bowl Championship Series appearance after playing in the Orange Bowl last season. The Huskies are 16th in this week's BCS rankings. They need to keep winning and move ahead of Fresno State in the standings to keep their hopes alive.
Northern Illinois is the first MAC team to appear in four straight league championship games since Marshall did it six seasons in a row from 1997-2002. The Huskies have won the past two MAC titles.
Terrance Owens threw two touchdown passes for Toledo (7-4, 5-2).
Toledo's leading rusher, David Fluellen, started after missing the past two games with what the team has called a lower leg injury, but he was held to 54 yards on 15 carries — far below his 133-yard average.
The Huskies' offense sputtered in the first half without their two leading receivers, Tommylee Lewis and Da'Ron Brown, because of injuries. Lewis didn't dress for the game and Brown went out in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury.
Lynch was shut down too, held to just 30 yards on the ground in the first half.
He scored three times in the second half. He faked a handoff and raced up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown, pulling the Huskies ahead for good at 21-17 with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
Lynch has thrown for at least 200 yards and run for 100 in the same game 11 times in his career. He moved into third place on the school's rushing list behind Garrett Wolfe and Michael Turner, both of whom went on to the NFL.
The Rockets led 10-7 at the half after Owens found a wide open Alonzo Russell along the right sideline for a 45-yard touchdown, putting Toledo ahead.
The Huskies drove 85 yards on the opening possession of the second half to take back the lead 14-10, scoring on a 12-yard run by Lynch, his first of the game.
Owens came back with a 36-yard touchdown to Bernard Reedy, who stretched out to make the catch in the back of the end zone, pulling the Rockets ahead 17-14 midway in the third quarter.