BG upset ends NIU’s repeat BCS bid

DETROIT – The party in and around Ford Field Friday night probably extended well into Saturday morning.

It wasn’t just the Bowling Green football team doing the celebrating. Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl representatives probably couldn’t stop smiling, either.

No. 14 Northern Illinois will not be returning to the BCS, its unbeaten regular season and 25-game Mid-American Conference win streak having been stopped by Bowling Green in Friday night’s MAC Championship Game, 47-27.

Those bowl reps — two from the Sugar Bowl, one from the Fiesta and one from the Orange Bowl, which Northern Illinois played in last year were on hand — now won’t be forced to take a MAC team and try to sell tickets to a matchup that lacks national sizzle. There’s a definite college football food chain, and in one game Bowling Green dragged Northern Illinois back to the mid-major pack.

With Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch a legitimate candidate to at least pick up Heisman Trophy second and third place votes, the MAC had great storylines for its annual showcase game but won’t be getting a really big check from the BCS.

A no-show Friday night by its defense meant no BCS — and no third straight MAC title — for Northern Illinois. Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson had thrown four touchdown passes by halftime, three to wide open receivers in the middle of the field. The Falcons (10-3) contained Lynch, too, forcing him into two interceptions. Lynch now stands 119 yards short of becoming the first player to both run and throw for 2,000 yards in a season and will have a chance to become the first in a bowl game, but that game will now be played closer to Christmas than the Jan. 6 BCS Championship Game.

“I expect a lot out of myself and I didn’t live up to my expectations,” Lynch said. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”

Lynch won his second straight MAC Player of the Year honor and is one of four finalists for the Walter Camp Award. With Heisman ballots due Monday afternoon, this performance on the national stage — this was the only college football game Friday night — will likely make his quest to get to New York City as a finalist for the game’s most prestigious award more difficult.

The last time a MAC player made it to the stage at the Downtown Athletic Club was 1999, when Marshall’s Chad Pennington finished fifth.

The Huskies would automatically qualify for the BCS by finishing in the top 16 and ahead of current No. 16 Central Florida, the American Athletic Conference’s automatic qualifier, or by finishing in the top 12.

Northern Illinois will drop, likely lower than No. 20, in all three areas that comprise the BCS system, the coaches and Harris polls and the computer rankings. The Huskies finish the regular season 12-1

Bowling Green led 17-7 by the end of the first quarter and though an 8-yard run by Lynch brought Northern Illinois to within 31-20 less than three minutes into the third quarter, Bowling Green’s fast defense and fearless quarterback allowed the Huskies to get no closer.

Johnson finished with 393 passing yards and five touchdowns. Bowling Green racked up 574 yards of offense.

“They

have a great quarterback that deserves all of the accolades he’s

gotten.” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said. “We have a great quarterback, too.”

Lynch had gone 134 passes and almost seven weeks between interceptions before Bowling Green defensive tackle Ted Ouelett picked off a deflected pass in the second quarter. He still got 345 yards of total offense, but the game was never in doubt in the final 12 minutes.

“I never turn the ball over,” Lynch said. “That was unacceptable.”

In the final three minutes, the Bowling Green student section chanted “No more Heisman” at Lynch.

Northern Illinois has 46 wins since 2010, tied for most nationally with Oregon and Alabama. Bowling Green delayed No. 47, and in doing so made a national impact. The Huskies wore their team slogan, “The Hard Way,” on the backs of their jerseys, and that’s exactly the way their 12-game win streak ended.

“Bowling Green is a good football team,” Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said. “This is going to hurt a little bit. We have to bounce back. We can’t let it linger.”