Utah State scored two second half touchdowns and shut down Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois to score a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego Thursday night. Darrell Garretson had his moments to forget in the victory but tossed a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter and a two-point conversion attempt to follow Joey DeMartino‘s fourth quarter touchdown run to send Utah State to the 21-7 victory. DeMartino rushed for 143 yards to power the Aggies to the win, the second straight bowl victory for the program.
The NIU defense was actually pretty strong in the first half, holding the Aggies to a pair of field goals and fewer than 130 yards of offense, but the halftime adjustments made by Utah State proved to be too much for the Huskies. Utah State’s offense turned the table sin the second half by holding down the Huskies offense and not allowing Lynch to hurt them. Utah State succeeded in forcing Lynch to beat them through the air, and that has generally been a successful strategy for those who have defeated Northern Illinois, including Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game. Lynch did drive the Huskies down the field in the final minutes of the game, just after Utah State took a 21-7 lead with a little over four minutes to play, and he completed a touchdown throw to Juwan Brescacin, but an onside kick attempt by NIU was recovered by Utah State to allow the Aggies to run the clock out.
Lynch ended his collegiate career with just 39 rushing yards and a touchdown and 216 passing yards and a touchdown. It was not exactly the type of performance Lynch had been accustomed to this season, but it should be a credit to Utah State’s defense to hold him to 39 rushing yards on 18 attempts. What back-to-back losses will do to his draft stock will be best left to break down by the NFL Draft scouts, but his last two performances do leave some room for criticism when discussing where he fits at the next level.
The MAC is now 0-4 in the postseason after seeing both conference championship participants, Northern Illinois and Bowling Green, suffer losses on Thursday. The conference’s last chance to win a bowl game will be placed in the hands of Ball State, a program that has never won a bowl game.
The Mountain West Conference is now 3-2 this postseason. Both losses have come against the Pac 12. The MWC i 2-0 against the MAC, including Colorado State’s wild finish against Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl.