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Utah State (8-5) vs. (24) Northern Illinois (12-1)



Thursday, December 26, 9:30 p.m. (ET)

The Sports Network

By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: Jordan Lynch will play the final game of his collegiate career as the 24th-ranked Northern Illinois Huskies square off with the Utah State Aggies in the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium.

Lynch finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy after leading NIU to a 12-0 regular season record that included victories over Iowa, Purdue, Ball State and Toledo. The Huskies looked like they were destined for another berth in a BCS bowl game, but their winning streak came to an end in the Mid- American Conference Championship where they were defeated, 47-27, by Bowling Green in Detroit. Rod Carey served as the interim head coach last season for the team's 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl before being hired to lead the program on a full-time basis over the offseason.

Utah State is playing in a bowl game for the third time in a row. The Aggies had their five-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 8-5 with a 24-17 loss at Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference Championship game. Matt Wells is also in his inaugural season with the program and needs just one more decision to set the school record for a first year head coach.

Although Utah State is 2-51 all-time against ranked opponents after its loss to Fresno State, the Aggies are 1-0 versus NIU thanks to their 42-7 win over the Huskies in Logan on Oct. 14, 1995.

USU had just the 10th most productive passing offense in the MWC at 241.3 yards per game. The Aggies had to play the second half of their season without senior QB Chuckie Keaton, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in October. Freshman Darell Garretson went 5-1 as a starter, although he connected on only 60.6 percent of his attempts for 189.3 ypg with nine TDs and five picks. The rookie went 12-of-26 for 198 yards and was intercepted once in the loss to FSU.

"Our team is going to keep fighting regardless what the scoreboard says," said junior wideout Ronald Butler after the loss to the Bulldogs. "With that being said, we come out with the mentality that we are never out of reach to win the game. That is something we will continue to do."

Butler set career-highs with five receptions and 145 yards in the conference championship game, but USU was held to 304 total yards, including a season-low 51 yards rushing. Senior halfback Joey DeMartino tallied only 54 yards on 18 carries. DeMartino racked up 1,078 yards and 12 TDs in 13 games this season. The Aggies have had 11 different players catch a pass for six points. Travis Reynolds paced USU with 832 receiving yards on 51 receptions in 11 games, but is questionable for the bowl game. Travis Van Leeuwen (638 yards, 50 rec.) and Butler will take on bigger roles if Reynolds is unable to play.

USU's defensive unit may be capable of slowing down the Huskies for the second game in a row. The Aggies are limiting their foes to only 332.2 total yards per game to rank 12th among FBS programs and nets 7.8 tackles for loss per tilt to place eighth nationally. USU allowed only two running backs to pick up 100 yards this season. The defense has a pair of outstanding linebackers in Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil, who tallied 140 and 115 stops to rank first and second on the team, respectively.

"Those inside linebackers to me epitomize the program and they are the face of that defense," said Wells on Doughty and Vigil. "They are blue-collar and have great work ethic. Really, I don't know if I have ever seen such football junkies, they are like quarterbacks they watch so much tape."

The Huskies' success this season came due to their unstoppable offensive attack led by Lynch. Entering the bowl season, NIU ranks in the top 10 nationally in both points per game (41.6) and total yards of offense per game (535.5). Since taking over the quarterback duties at the beginning of the 2012 season, Lynch has compiled a 24-3 record as a starter.

"I always set high expectations for myself," said Lynch. "When I filled in for Chandler [Harnish], I never looked at it as filling his shoes. I just always wanted to win games and that was it. If I give my team a chance in the fourth quarter, then that's all I can ask for. That's how I went into it and that's how I looked at the whole situation."

The senior signal caller has scored 22 touchdowns on the ground on the campaign, and finished second to only Boston College's Andre Williams in rushing yards with 1,881. Lynch has shown he is far from one-dimensional on multiple occasions this season and completed 63.1 percent of his throws for 2,676 yards with 23 TDs against seven picks. Lynch, who was named the MAC's Vern Smith Leadership Award winner as league MVP for the second season in a row, and will become the first player in FBS history with 2,000 yards passing and rushing if he manages to gain 119 more on the ground against Utah State.

NIU has plenty of weapons surrounding its star field general. Junior tailback Cameron Stingily was one of six players from the MAC to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and also ran for nine TDs.

"I think he was the fifth-string running back last year," said Lynch on Stingily's breakout campaign. "Thinking about quitting a few years ago and he comes out and has a 1,000-yard season. He made my job a lot easier back there handing it off and just watching him go to work. At times, he really helped our offense."

Tommylee Lewis and Da'Ron Brown are both used very often in NIU's passing game. Lewis made a team-best 80 catches for 660 yards, while Brown has 42 receptions for 689 yards and six scores.

Defensively, the Huskies showed improvement all season long before they were dismantled by the Falcons in the MAC Championship. BGSU amassed 574 yards of total offense with 393 yards coming through the air. Senior safety Jimmie Ward was recently picked to as a First-Team All-American after recording a team- high 89 tackles and a career-high six interceptions. Despite the strong play by Ward, NIU surrenders 273.8 passing yards per game to the opposition, which is the most allowed by any MAC school.

Lynch and the NIU offense will need some help from the Huskies' defensive unit if they hope to end the season on a positive note. Although the Aggies are being guided by a freshman quarterback, they will be able to move the ball down the field with success through the air. However, NIU could prosper if it manages to force a few turnovers.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 31, Utah State 28

12/20 09:53:51 ET

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Local
Final
BRK 91
CHA 115
Final
DUKE 94
WAKE 51
7:00pm Tonight
ECU
TEMPL
 
7:30pm Tonight
NCCU
NCAT
 
Final
LOS 4
CWS 6
 
Final
CLE 4
CIN 2
 
Final
TEX 2
KAN 13
 
Final
SFG 2
OAK 9
 
Final
SEA 4
SDP 3
 
Final
MIL 8
WMIL 0
 
Final
COL 3
ARI 6
 
Final
MIN 3
UMIN 1
 
1:05pm Today
DET
ATL
 
1:05pm Today
TAM
BAL
 
1:05pm Today
PIT
NYY
 
1:05pm Today
HOU
PHI
 
1:05pm Today
MIA
STL
 
3:05pm Today
SFG
CHC
 
3:05pm Today
CIN
CLE
 
3:05pm Today
CWS
LOS
 
3:05pm Today
ANA
MIL
 
3:05pm Today
CHC
OAK
 
3:05pm Today
SEA
SDP
 
3:05pm Today
KAN
TEX
 
3:10pm Today
ARI
COL
 
5:05pm Tonight
WAS
NYM
 
7:05pm Tonight
MIN
BOS
 
7:05pm Tonight
BAL
TOR
 
Final
IND 105
NYK 82
Final
ORL 100
PHO 105
Final
BRK 91
CHA 115
Final
TOR 112
CLE 120
Final
BOS 85
UTA 84
Final
MIN 85
DEN 100
Final
NOP 88
DET 85
 
Final
MIA 100
LAL 94
Final
HOU 100
MEM 102
Final
OKC 123
PHI 118
Final
SAN 112
SAC 85
Final
GSW 102
MIL 93
Final
LAC 93
POR 98
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
OKC
 
10:30pm Tonight
POR
DAL
 
Final
UNCA 80
LIB 70
 
Final
PSU 67
OSU 77
Final
USB 62
BING 57
 
Final
FORD 66
DUQ 81
Final
GMAS 51
GWU 67
Final
UNH 67
HART 63
 
Final
STJOE 55
LAS 50
Final
Terriers 79
LIU 70
 
Final
GTDNS 83
MAINE 66
 
Final
LOU 59
ND 71
Final
SHU 66
PROV 79
Final
BRY 91
SHU 85
 
Final
MORE 79
SEMIZ 74
Final
MNTER 58
RFLSH 73
 
Final
LSU 63
TENN 78
Final
SFLA 74
UCF 45
Final
VERM 66
UMBC 39
 
Final
RMU 91
WAGN 68
 
Final
UMASS 53
RICH 56
Final
TULA 63
HOU 68
Final
YALE 71
HOW 62
 
Final
PITT 63
MIAMI 67
Final
TXPA 48
NMST 69
 
Final
MSU 72
PURD 66
Final
STLU 48
BONA 64
Final
DUKE 94
WAKE 51
Final
TULSA 47
CIN 56
Final
VANDY 66
MSST 56
Final
OKST 82
TCU 70
Final
UCLA 85
USC 74
Final
WYO 76
UTST 53
Final
MARQ 51
STJ 67
Final
EILL 78
SIUE 66
Final
FRES 68
AFA 66
Final
NEV 62
COLST 78
Final
ILL 69
NEB 57
Final
SJST 51
BSU 68
Final
ORST 62
OREG 65
Final
UNLV 58
SDST 60
Final
HAW 90
UCSB 98
 
5:00pm Tonight
SIENA
NIAG
 
7:00pm Tonight
LEH
AMER
 
7:00pm Tonight
SCAR
ARK
 
7:00pm Tonight
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BU
 
7:00pm Tonight
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7:00pm Tonight
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HC
 
7:00pm Tonight
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LIP
 
7:00pm Tonight
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MORE
 
7:00pm Tonight
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NAVY
 
7:00pm Tonight
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TEMPL
 
7:00pm Tonight
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7:00pm Tonight
FLGC
USCU
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHAR
WKENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
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7:05pm Tonight
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7:30pm Tonight
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7:30pm Tonight
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7:30pm Tonight
MDES
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7:30pm Tonight
HAMP
NORST
 
7:30pm Tonight
NCCU
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7:30pm Tonight
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SCST
 
7:30pm Tonight
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7:30pm Tonight
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8:00pm Tonight
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NO
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WIN 1
OTT 3
Final
DET 2
NYR 1
Final
ANA 3
MON 1
Final
COL 3
PIT 1
7:00pm Tonight
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7:00pm Tonight
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7:30pm Tonight
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7:30pm Tonight
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8:00pm Tonight
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9:00pm Tonight
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