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

bid.

”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

Utah State.”

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

said.

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

recovered.

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

lead.

Lynch ended NIU’s second possession by losing a fumble at

midfield. Utah State responded with a 31-yard field goal by Nick

Diaz.

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

goal.