Aggies beat Lynch, No. 24 NIU 21-14 in Poinsettia
Joey DeMartino starred in his hometown Poinsettia Bowl.
Jordan Lynch, the all-purpose Heisman Trophy finalist from
Northern Illinois, didn’t.
Utah State’s swarming defense made Lynch look average during a
21-14 victory over No. 24 Northern Illinois on Thursday night.
Safety Brian Suite intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble by
Lynch, who was bottled up for only 39 yards rushing. That kept him
from becoming the first major college player to rush for 2,000
yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.
Utah State stymied a Huskies offense that had averaged nearly 42
points a game.
”The only thing we do every week is not stop the run game, but
eliminate the run game,” USU coach Matt Wells said. ”But
obviously he is a big part of the run game, so we were able to
eliminate him, make him one-dimensional and then we were able to
actually find a way to run the football, which makes them
one-dimensional, and the ballgame is ours.”
DeMartino, who went to high school and junior college in San
Diego, carried 23 times for 143 yards and a touchdown for Utah
State (9-5). He was the offensive MVP.
”The feeling’s unreal,” DeMartino said. ”I couldn’t ask for a
better senior game to go out on and to be in front of my hometown,
my family, my friends and everyone who supported me out here.”
DeMartino said the Aggies wanted to bounce back from a loss to
Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference championship game.
”We took a hard loss there,” DeMartino said. ”That’s not how
we play. We just wanted to come back and prove to the nation that
we can compete every game and we did just that.”
Lynch was third in the Heisman Trophy voting and made The
Associated Press All-America team as an all-purpose player.
He extended his major college record for yards rushing for a
quarterback in a season to 1,920. He completed 20 of 35 passes for
216 yards and was sacked twice.
Lynch ran for a touchdown and passed for another for NIU (12-2),
which ended the season with two straight losses.
The Huskies were coming off a 20-point loss to Bowling Green in
the Mid-American Conference title game that cost them a BCS
”We gave it the 24-hour rule,” Lynch said. ”The carpet got
pulled out from under us losing to Bowling Green and thinking about
going to a BCS game. But we got a chance to play a great opponent
in Utah State. I thought we had a great three weeks of practice. We
came out with a lot of energy and had fun. All the credit goes to
Lynch’s pass was intercepted on the first play of the third
quarter by Suite, setting up a go-ahead, 5-yard touchdown pass from
Darrel Garretson to Brandon Swindall.
The Aggies put it away when DeMartino scored on a 1-yard run
with 4:14 to go for a 21-7 lead. It capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive
that consumed 7:19.
”We had to find a way to keep wearing them down and I’m going
to tell you what – we imposed our will on them at the end of the
game,” Wells said.
”On that one drive to make it 21-7, that was more of an issue
that they had been out there all night because the offense couldn’t
do a thing,” NIU coach Rod Carey said.
NIU punted four times, had two turnovers, two missed field goals
and relinquished possession on downs one time.
”We weren’t able to move it like we normally do,” Carey
Lynch threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Juwan Brescacin with 1:44
left to pull NIU to 21-14. NIU tried an onside kicked that USU
There were four turnovers and three missed field goals. The game
drew only 23,408 to 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium, the lowest
attendance in the bowl’s nine-year history.
Suite also recovered Lynch’s fumble in the first quarter.
NIU’s first five series in the second half ended with an
interception, three punts and a missed field goal.
”We had our chances,” Lynch said. ”We had our chances to make
some plays and score some points. We were in the red zone three
times or so and we didn’t come away with points. We just didn’t
capitalize on it.”
The teams staggered through an unimpressive first half that
included a missed field goal by each team, a shanked punt by NIU
and a lost fumble by Lynch.
Lynch scored on a 1-yard run with 8:17 left in the second
quarter to cap a 15-play, 78-yard drive and give NIU a 7-6
Lynch ended NIU’s second possession by losing a fumble at
midfield. Utah State responded with a 31-yard field goal by Nick
NIU’s Mathew Sims was wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt
and DeMartino had a 58-yard run to set up Diaz’s 39-yard field