Detroit –Former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi ran for three touchdowns and Jay Ducker ran for 146 yards on 29 carries to propel northern Illinois to a 41-23 victory over Kent State in the Mid-American Conference title game on Saturday.
This is the Huskies’ sixth MAC title (9-4) in the past 11 years and the first since 2018 when they beat Buffalo. Kent State (7-6) was aiming for its first conference championship since winning in 1972.
Momentum seemed to shift to the Golden Flashes early in the second half. Andrew Glass kicked a 41-yard basket in opening practice for his first points of the game and the Kent State defense forced northern Illinois to kick for the first time.
But in the next practice, Dustin Crum, the MAC’s MVP this season, was intercepted by CJ Brown who returned 26 yards for a touchdown as the Huskies led 24-3. The Golden Flashes reduced the deficit to 24-10 with 27 seconds left in the third quarter when Crum hit Nykeim Johnson on a 17-yard shot.
The Huskies put an end to Kent State’s return hopes when Lombardi scored on a 3-yard goalie with 10:54 to go, bringing the score to 31-10. He added a 2-yard TD almost four minutes later.
Kent State’s Collin Schlee ran four yards for a touchdown and also threw a 7-yard pass to Luke Floriea as time ticked to close the scoring.
Northern Illinois limited Crum to 27 passing yards in the first half while taking a 17-0 lead.
After John Richardson kicked a 27-yard basket to close the first drive, Clint Ratkovich capped a 10-play, 78-yard walk with a 2-yard TD to push the Huskies into the lead 10-0 with 2:09 to go. in the first quarter.
After a leaping interception from northern Illinois linebacker Dillon Thomas at Kent State’s next practice, Lombardi led the Huskies to 81 yards and extended their lead to 17-0 when he crossed the goal line of the 1 with 8:33 to play.
Before the game began, a minute of silence was observed in memory of the murder of four students earlier this week at Oxford High School, located about 30 miles north of Detroit.
Black ribbons were tied to each goal post to support the school and the community, and the students at Oxford High School were greeted at the game and recognized in the first half.
More Saturday matches
(At) Ferris State 41, Northwest Missouri State 20: Ferris State quarterback Mylik Mitchell ran for two touchdowns and threw another to lead Ferris State (12-0) to a National Division II semi-final.
Mitchell gave the Bulldogs a 14-6 lead with a 36-yard run at the end of the first quarter, then extended it to 20-6 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Wade early in the second quarter. He capped the score in the first half with a 7-yard run to make it 27-13.
Ferris State also got touchdown passes from Evan Cummins (13 yards), Jeremy Burrell (5 yards) and Tyler Minor (84 yards).
Mitchell completed 12 of 19 passes for 155 yards. Minor made seven tikes for 99 yards.
Braden Wright had 255 yards and two touchdowns for Northwest Missouri State (11-2).