Huskies win MAC crown again

Published 12:40 am Sunday, December 7, 2014

DETROIT (AP) — Drew Hare threw for two touchdowns and ran for one, and Northern Illinois wrested the Mid-American Conference title from Bowling Green in emphatic fashion Friday night, beating the Falcons 51-17.

The Huskies (11-2) are MAC champions for the third time in four years, and they avenged a loss to Bowling Green in last season’s title game, when the Falcons spoiled Northern Illinois’ bid for an undefeated season.

Unlike the last couple years, Northern Illinois isn’t making a push for one of college football’s top bowls, but there is little doubt where the Huskies stand in the MAC. This was their fifth straight appearance in the league title game.

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Bowling Green (7-6) came into the game with one of the nation’s most fast-paced offenses, but the Falcons were upstaged by Northern Illinois, which finished with 552 yards on 100 plays from scrimmage.

Northern Illinois set a MAC title game record with its 51 points, eclipsing the old mark of 49 by Marshall in 2002 and Miami (Ohio) in 2003.

The Huskies led 20-10 at halftime before breaking the game open in the third quarter. Hare threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Brescacin, and Cameron Stingily’s 2-yard scoring run made it 34-10.

Hare threw for 218 yards, successfully guiding Northern Illinois to another title after replacing Jordan Lynch, the Heisman Trophy candidate who played quarterback for the Huskies last year. Bowling Green also had a different quarterback for this season’s title game after losing Matt Johnson to a hip injury in the season opener.

Bowling Green’s James Knapke was intercepted twice in the first quarter — both times when the ball bounced to the defensive back who picked it off. The Huskies led 13-0 when Bowling Green finally answered in the second quarter. Gehrig Dieter outfought freshman defensive back Mayomi Olootu for Knapke’s deep pass, hauling it in for a 42-yard touchdown.

But Hare threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Luke Eakes with 25 seconds left in the half.

Bowling Green set this year’s season high for FBS teams when the Falcons ran 113 plays from scrimmage in a win over Indiana on Sept. 13, according to STATS. Northern Illinois didn’t quite reach that mark, but the Huskies had 79 plays through three quarters Friday.

The title game capped a dominant year for the MAC’s West Division, which went 15-3 against the East during the regular season. After holding off challenges from Toledo and Western Michigan within the division, Northern Illinois had little trouble in its long-awaited rematch with the Falcons.

Stingily had 116 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns, and Dechane Durante intercepted two passes for the Huskies.

Northern Illinois punt returner Chad Beebe left with a broken arm in the first quarter.