POINSETTIA BOWL: Aggies stop Lynch, Huskies
SAN DIEGO — Joey DeMartino starred in his hometown Poinsettia Bowl.
Jordan Lynch, the all-purpose Heisman Trophy finalist from Northern Illinois, didn’t.
Utah State’s swarming defense made Lynch look average during a 21-14 victory over No. 24 Northern Illinois on Thursday night.
Safety Brian Suite intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble by Lynch, who was bottled up for only 39 yards rushing. That kept him from becoming the first major college player to rush for 2,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.
Utah State stymied a Huskies offense that had averaged nearly 42 points a game.
“The only thing we do every week is not stop the run game, but eliminate the run game,” USU coach Matt Wells said. “But obviously he is a big part of the run game, so we were able to eliminate him, make him one-dimensional and then we were able to actually find a way to run the football, which makes them one-dimensional, and the ballgame is ours.”
DeMartino, who went to high school and junior college in San Diego, carried 23 times for 143 yards and a touchdown for Utah State (9-5). He was the offensive MVP.
“The feeling’s unreal,” DeMartino said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior game to go out on and to be in front of my hometown, my family, my friends and everyone who supported me out here.”
DeMartino said the Aggies wanted to bounce back from a loss to Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference championship game.
“We took a hard loss there,” DeMartino said. “That’s not how we play. We just wanted to come back and prove to the nation that we can compete every game and we did just that.”
Lynch was third in the Heisman Trophy voting and made The Associated Press All-America team as an all-purpose player.
He extended his major college record for yards rushing for a quarterback in a season to 1,920. He completed 20 of 35 passes for 216 yards and was sacked twice.
Lynch ran for a touchdown and passed for another for NIU (12-2), which ended the season with two straight losses.
The Huskies were coming off a 20-point loss to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference title game that cost them a BCS bid.
“We gave it the 24-hour rule,” Lynch said.
“The carpet got pulled out from under us losing to Bowling Green and thinking about going to a BCS game. But we got a chance to play a great opponent in Utah State. I thought we had a great three weeks of practice. We came out with a lot of energy and had fun. All the credit goes to Utah State.”
The Aggies put it away when DeMartino scored on a 1-yard run with 4:14 to go for a 21-7 lead. It capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 7:19.