This was #MACtion at its finest.The teams totaled for 1069 yards of offense and 75 points. But it was the Huskies that found a way to pull away from Ball State in the end, preserving their (now) 25 game home winning streak and winning their 23rd straight MAC game last night. Jordan Lynch showed why he is a Heisman candidate yet again.
We all knew Lynch can run really well, but surprisingly, Lynch also out threw Ball State's great quarterback Keith Wenning. Wenning ended his night 35-49 passing for 324 yards, a TD, and an INT. Lynch was nearly perfect, going 26-32 for 345 yards with two TDs and a total QBR of 91.3. On the ground he added two more scores and 123 yards on 20 carries.
Lynch will get much of the hype for this game, but one player who had an equally amazing performance was Da'Ron Brown. Brown never had more than 100 yards receiving in a game...until last night. He had 8 catches for 209 yards and both Huskie receiving TDs. It was the first time a Huskie WR had 200+ yards in a game since the GoDaddy.com Bowl January 8th, 2012 when Martell Moore had 224.
But as strong as Lynch (and Wenning) played, neither team had a lead larger than eight points for the first 58 minutes, in fact the Huskies largest lead through three quarters was just three. When NIU scored, Ball State would counter...but surprisingly it was more of a defensive showdown than most thought it would be.
The Huskies struck first with an early 34-yard field goal, but on their next drive, Ball State would find the endzone on a 3-yard catch by Willie Snead. Not to be outdone, Jordan Lynch would run in his first of two rushing touchdowns early in the second quarter. Just a few minutes later, BSU quarterback Keith Wenning, would do his best Lynch impersonation and leap over a pile of defenders to give the Cardinals a 14-10 lead. Matthew Sims, the Huskies kicker, was forced to kick a short field goal with just five minutes remaining in the first half, cutting Ball State's lead to one.
Then, with less than two minutes remaining, there was a flurry of offense. After Jahwan Edwards ran in a touchdown for Ball State, the Huskies needed just one play score - Da'Ron Brown caught a screen pass and took it 58-yards to the house. But that left Ball State with enough time to drive down and kick a field goal - giving them a 24-20 lead. After an incredibly short kickoff, NIU had the ball in Ball State territory with 18 seconds left. They drove down to the 35-yard line, but missed a field goal as time expired.
After the half, the see-saw battle continued. However, after 34 points were given up in the 2nd quarter, the defenses settled down and there were only 10 total points scored in the third. NIU struck first when Cameron Stingily scored on 4th and goal from the one. With just three minutes remaining, Scott Secor would add his second field goal for Ball State, tying the game at 27.
The defenses battled throughout the fourth quarter too. The Huskie defense forced three consecutive punts from the talented Ball State offense. Not to be outdone, the Cardinal defense held strong - forcing two punts and stripping Brown, as he headed towards the endzone, on what would have been a 53-yard play. After NIU got the ball back, Brown would make up for that fumble by catching a 36-yard touchdown to give NIU a 34-27 lead.
The Huskies wouldn't look back. With less than four minutes remaining, Ball State had a 4th and one at NIU's 46-yard line but Boomer Mays and a pack of Huskies pulled Edwards down in the backfield giving the Huskies the ball back. From there, Lynch would not be denied. He methodically drove down and ate up as much clock as possible, before bowling over a BSU defender on his way to a 16-yard TD run - giving NIU a 41-27 lead with under 90 seconds to play.
The Huskie defense wasn't done yet though. On the next drive, defensive end Joe Windsor picked off Wenning and returned it 49-yards for the final Huskie touchdown, extending the lead to 21.
Jahwan Edwards gets overshadowed by Keith Wenning and Jordan Lynch, but had a monster game for Ball State, carrying the ball 29 times for 156 yards and a TD. Willie Snead, the Cardinals best receiver, amassed 12 catches for 121 yards and a score. And the big man, TE Zane Fakes added 8 grabs and 96 yards.
For NIU, outside of the Lynch and Brown show, Tommylee Lewis led the team with 12 grabs, but only had 71 yards. He also ran it four times for 34 yards. Cameron Stingily had a light day, getting just seven carries for 28 yards. It was also the first game this year where NIU did not commit a penalty (BSU had 6 for 45 yards).