NIU states its case for Top 25 ranking
Maybe now Northern Illinois will get some respect.
Huskies coach Dave Doeren hopes Wednesday's convincing 31-24 win over Toledo, shown nationally on ESPN2, will finally get his 10-1 team ranked in the top 25 polls.
The victory gave NIU its third straight Mid-American Conference West title and a spot in the MAC championship game on Nov. 30 in Detroit.
"I think we should have been ranked last week," Doeren said. "We're a very good football team. When you have all the streaks we have, it's not a deal where you can say we're a flash-in-the-pan program. When you're a mid-major, you have to win, win, win, and keep winning, and that's what we've done. I think these players deserve this attention."
The Huskies have won 10 games in a row and also own the longest home winning streak in the country at 21 games, and the longest MAC winning streak at 15.
"As a program, anytime you can show sustained success, that's the measure of a great program," Doeren said. "To be the winningest program in the conference the last decade and to be in this (title) game coming up for the third year in a row says a lot. To have 10 wins three years in a row, that's what you want from a college football program."
The Huskies trailed 14-7 at halftime before turning the game their way with an explosive third quarter led by junior quarterback Jordan Lynch.
After being limited to 53 yards rushing and 83 yards passing in the first half, Lynch finished with 569 total yards, including 407 passing and 162 rushing.
Lynch took the Huskies on scoring drives of 73, 99 and 97 yards in the third quarter when he threw for 296 yards.
"At halftime we talked about it," Doeren said. "I told them I wanted them to show the world how good they are."
The first play of the third quarter turned the game around, a 73-yard touchdown bubble screen pass to Martel Moore, who broke several tackles and used the ball to keep his balance when it looked as if he might go down.
"I thought today the seniors, in that third quarter, Martel pretty much put the team on his back with that play," Lynch said. "That sparked us."
"The way we came out in the third quarter, threw that little screen to Martel Moore, that was a heck of a play he made, big time," Doeren said. "That sparked us right there and things just kind of took off."
Moore had 7 catches for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tommylee Lewis had 6 catches for 65 yards.
Toledo coach Matt Campbell gave the Huskies' coaching staff credit for their second half adjustments. He also lamented turning the ball over four times.
"We did a great job moving the football past the 50, but at the end of the day you can't turn the ball over," said Campbell, who had lofty praise for Lynch.
"Right now he's playing at a high level," Campbell said. "He's a young man who plays very consistent for as much as he runs the football. His ability to run with such power and yet throw the ball with such consistency and have the ability to sustain that success over the last nine or 10 ballgames. He's got a lot of great things to look forward to, I'm sure.
"But it's not like he was throwing the ball down the field. He got the ball on the perimeter to some of their speed guys. I really think that's what changed the pace of the game and forced our hand to try and adjust."
It also helped that NIU held Rockets running back David Fluellen, the nation's leading rusher coming into the game, to 79 yards on 22 carries.
"We did a nice job taking David Fluellen out of the game," Doeren said. "That was a big part of the win."
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