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Second-half surge by Northern Illinois clinches MAC West title

Updated: December 19, 2012 12:16PM

DeKALB — Northern Illinois wasn’t foolish enough to think that just because it has played in big games over the last several seasons that Wednesday night’s game against Toledo was going to come easy.

The teams met for a third consecutive year in a late-season game with MAC West Division Championship implications, but the experience didn’t do anything to jump-start the Huskies.

A typically potent Northern Illinois offense played its worst half of football in the first half at Huskie Stadium before rebounding with a dominant third quarter to capture a 31-24 win.

With the victory, Northern Illinois clinched the MAC West and a spot in the Nov. 30 MAC Championship game in Detroit on Nov. 30.

“We’re used to having to win the game,” coach Dave Doeren said. “We didn’t feel any tension about it. We look forward to the stage.

“When you’re winning, ­every game you’re going to get somebody’s best.”

The Huskies trailed 14-7 at the half, their lowest point total in any half this season.

But quarterback Jordan Lynch showed coming out of halftime why he’s heavily favored to win the conference player-of-the-year award.

After throwing for 83 yards in the first half, Lynch passed for 296 yards in a third quarter. The Huskies scored on three of four third-quarter possessions — including drives of 99 and 97 yards — and took the lead for good.

Lynch finished with 407 yards passing and three touchdowns and 162 yards rushing on 30 carries. It was Lynch’s ninth consecutive game with at least 100 yards on the ground, adding to his NCAA record of consecutive 100-yard rushing games for a quarterback.

“A lot of those yards came on bubble screens,” Lynch said, crediting his receivers.

Martel Moore, who caught scoring passes of five and 73 yards from Lynch, had seven receptions for 153 yards.

While the Huskies’ offense took the game away the Rockets in the third quarter, their unheralded defense set the stage.

The Huskies knew the game was billed as an offensive showcase after the teams combined for 123 points in a 63-60 victory by NIU last season. But the Huskies’ defense answered the critics, forcing four turnovers, three of which came in NIU territory with Toledo threatening.

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