GAMEDAY College Football

MAC Championship: Northern Illinois 41, Kent State 23

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

By BOB TRIPI
Associated Press

DETROIT - Quarterback Rocky Lombardi ran for three touchdowns and Jay Ducker ran for 146 yards on 29 carries to power Northern Illinois to a 41-23 victory over Kent State in the Mid-American Conference title game.

It is the Huskies' (9-4) sixth MAC title in the last 11 years and first since 2018 when it beat Buffalo. Kent State (7-6) was shooting for its first conference championship since winning it in 1972.

Momentum appeared to be shifting to the Golden Flashes at the start of the second half. Andrew Glass kicked a 41-yard field goal on the opening drive for their first points of the game and the Kent State defense forced Northern Illinois to punt for the first time.

But on the next drive Dustin Crum, the MAC's most valuable player this season, was intercepted by C.J. Brown who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown as the Huskies went ahead 24-3. The Golden Flashes cut the deficit to 24-10 with 27 seconds left in the third quarter when Crum hit Nykeim Johnson on a 17-yard scoring strike.

The Huskies ended Kent State's comeback hopes when Lombardi scored on a 3-yard keeper with 10:54 left making it 31-10. He added a 2-yard TD run nearly four minutes later.

Kent State's Collin Schlee ran four yards for a touchdown and also threw a 7-yard TD pass to Luke Floriea as time expired to close out the scoring.

Northern Illinois held Crum to 27 yards passing in the first half while building a 17-0 lead.

After John Richardson kicked a 27-yard field goal to close the first drive, Clint Ratkovich capped a 10-play, 78-yard march with a 2-yard TD run to push the Huskies ahead 10-0 with 2:09 left in the first quarter.

Following a leaping interception by Northern Illinois linebacker Dillon Thomas on Kent State's next drive, Lombardi drove the Huskies 81 yards and extended their advantage to 17-0 when he bulled over the goal line from the 1 with 8:33 remaining.


Scoring Summary
First Quarter KentStNIU
NIU FG 9:43 John Richardson 37 yard field goal 0 3
NIU TD 2:09 Clint Ratkovich 2 yard TD run (John Richardson Extra Point) 0 10
Second Quarter KentStNIU
NIU TD 8:33 Rocky Lombardi 1 yard TD run (John Richardson Extra Point) 0 17
Third Quarter KentStNIU
KentSt FG 11:38 Andrew Glass 41 yard field goal 3 17
NIU TD 3:55 CJ Brown 26 yard interception return for TD (John Richardson Extra Point) 3 24
KentSt TD 0:27 Nykeim Johnson 17 yard TD pass from Dustin Crum (Andrew Glass Extra Point) 10 24
Fourth Quarter KentStNIU
NIU TD 10:54 Rocky Lombardi 5 yard TD run (John Richardson Extra Point) 10 31
NIU TD 6:55 Rocky Lombardi 2 yard TD run (John Richardson Extra Point) 10 38
KentSt TD 4:16 Collin Schlee 4 yard TD run (Andrew Glass Extra Point) 17 38
NIU FG 2:01 John Richardson 30 yard field goal 17 41
KentSt TD 0:00 Luke Floriea 7 yard TD pass from Collin Schlee 23 41
Team Stats
  Kent State Northern Illinois
First downs 24 28
  Rushing 12 17
  Passing 10 7
  Penalty 2 4
3rd Down Efficiency 4-9, 44% 8-14, 57%
4th down efficiency 1-3, 33% 3-3, 100%
Rushes-Yards 36-195 61-266
Passing Yards 196 102
Return Yards 88 81
Completions-Attempts-Int 16-26-2 7-15-1
Sacks-Yards Lost 4-19 0-0
Punts 1 1
Fumbles Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties - Yards 7-73 5-55
Kent State Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
D. Crum 11 21 128 1 2
C. Schlee 5 5 68 1 0
Northern Illinois Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
R. Lombardi 7 15 102 0 1
Kent State Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
X. Williams 8 93 11.6 0
D. Crum 15 68 4.5 0
C. Schlee 3 22 7.3 1
B. Bradford 2 9 4.5 0
M. Cooper 6 5 0.8 0
J. Poke 1 1 1.0 0
L. Floriea 1 -3 -3.0 0
Northern Illinois Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
J. Ducker 29 146 5.0 0
A. Brown 14 75 5.4 0
C. Ratkovich 9 24 2.7 1
R. Lombardi 8 17 2.1 3
M. Blakemore 1 4 4.0 0
Kent State Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
D. Cephas 7 102 14.6 0
K. Abram 4 36 9.0 0
R. James 1 18 18.0 0
N. Johnson 1 17 17.0 1
J. Poke 2 16 8.0 0
L. Floriea 1 7 7.0 1
Northern Illinois Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
T. Rudolph 3 50 16.7 0
C. Tucker 2 30 15.0 0
M. Travis 1 12 12.0 0
M. Toure 1 10 10.0 0
Kent State Interceptions
Player Int Yards
N. Bolden 1 0
Northern Illinois Interceptions
Player Int Yards
C. Brown 1 26
D. Thomas 1 -2
Kent State Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
J. Smith 1 36 36.0
Northern Illinois Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
M. Ference 1 57 57.0
Kent State Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
Northern Illinois Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
Kent State Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
J. Poke 3 38 12.7
N. Johnson 2 50 25.0
Northern Illinois Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
J. Ducker 3 57 19.0
Kent State Missed FG
Player Length
Northern Illinois Missed FG
Player Length




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