Northern Illinois has its fifth MAC title.
The Huskies beat Kent State, 41-23, on Saturday to tie Marshall for the most conference championship game wins in MAC history. Marshall won five titles from 1997-2002 before it left the conference. All of Northern Illinois’ five titles have come since 2011 and the Huskies most recently won in 2018.
NIU jumped out to a 17-0 lead before halftime and led 24-3 in the third quarter on a pick-six by CJ Brown. That TD put the game out of reach for Kent State.
Jay Ducker rushed for over 100 yards while QB Rocky Lombardi — a transfer from Michigan State — rushed for three scores.
This MAC title comes just a year after NIU went winless. The Huskies were 0-6 in 2020 after going 5-7 in Thomas Hammock’s first season in 2019. Hammock was promoted to replace Rod Carey after Carey left for Temple and it was hard to see how NIU would get to the heights it did under Carey’s watch in Hammock’s first two seasons.
Now the focus turns to ending an absurdly long bowl losing streak. Northern Illinois hasn’t won a bowl game since 2011 when it won the GoDaddy.com Bowl. That losing streak spans six games including two Boca Raton Bowls and two Poinsettia Bowls.
Kent State still has one more chance to get to eight wins in a season for the first time since going 11-3 in 2012. The Golden Flashes entered the game averaging over 33 points per game but the offense went stagnant on Saturday. The 23 points are the fewest Kent State scored since a 37-16 loss to Maryland in September.