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Kent State loses MAC Championship Game 41-23 to Northern Illinois

The Golden Flashes still haven't won a conference title since 1972.

DETROIT — *EDITOR'S NOTE: The video in the player above is from a previous story.

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.

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, but NIU (9-4) ended KSU's comeback hopes when Lombardi scored on a 3-yard keeper with 10:54 left making it 31-10.

The Flashes (7-6) entered as a four-point favorite and defeated the Huskies 52-47 during the regular season, but their "Flash Fast" offense struggled to take advantage of opportunities. The Grafton native Crum completed just 11 of 21 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown along with two interceptions while being sacked four times, with six NIU players registering at least half a sack.

This was a rematch of the 2012 MAC Championship Game, when Northern Illinois also prevailed 44-37 in double overtime. Kent State is now 0-2 all-time in this contest, and remains without a league title since 1972.

Both teams now await their respective bowl assignments. Either could go to any one of the following 10 locations:

  • Cure Bowl - Dec. 17; Orlando, Florida
  • Boca Raton Bowl - Dec. 18; Boca Raton, Florida
  • LendingTree Bowl - Dec. 18; Mobile, Alabama
  • Myrtle Beach Bowl - Dec. 20; Conway, South Carolina
  • Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Dec. 21; Boise, Idaho
  • Frisco Bowl - Dec. 21; Frisco, Texas
  • Camellia Bowl - Dec. 25; Montgomery, Alabama
  • Quick Lane Bowl - Dec. 27; Detroit, Michigan
  • Arizona Bowl - Dec. 31; Tucson, Arizona
  • Unnamed replacement bowl game - TBA; Frisco, Texas