San Diego, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Joey DeMartino rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown to lead Utah State to a 21-14 win over 24th-ranked Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday.
Darell Garretson completed 17-of-28 passes for 121 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and Brandon Swindall finished with four catches for 28 yards and a score for the Aggies (9-5), who finished the season with wins in six of their final seven games.
Utah State beat a ranked opponent for just the third time in school history.
Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch struggled in his final collegiate game, completing 20-of-35 passes for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Lynch, who entered the game averaging nearly 206 rushing yards per game, picked up a meager 39 yards and one score on 18 carries.
The Huskies (11-2) received no help from their kicking game as kicker Mathew Sims missed a pair of field goals from 37 and 29 yards.
NIU finished the season with two straight losses.
After trading punts to open the game, the Aggies drove to the NIU 35, but on 4th-and-16, Jake Thompson pushed a field goal wide right. Lynch, though, fumbled two plays later and Utah State took over on the Northern Illinois 46.
Garretson connected with Ronald Butler for a 12 yard gain to pick up a first down, but couldn't move the chains on 3rd-and-6 and Utah State was forced to settle for a Nick Diaz 31-yarder for a 3-0 lead.
The Huskies drove down to the Utah State 25 on the ensuing touch, but Desroy Maxwell was penalized for an illegal block and pushed NIU back to the Aggies' 40-yard line. Lynch completed a 20-yard pass to Da'Ron Brown on third down to force a Sims' 37-yard field goal attempt, but he couldn't connect.
DeMartino broke off a 58-yard run to get Utah State down to the NIU 20, but Bruce Natson was unable to stretch for a first down on 3rd-and-16 and Diaz split the uprights from 39 yards out early in the second.
Lynch finally got the Huskies on the board with a 15-play, 78-yard drive to give NIU a 7-6 lead it brought into the break. Lynch had the Huskies across midfield in three plays after connecting with Tommylee Lewis for a 16-yard gain. Later in the drive, Lynch was taken down on the goal line following a 6- yard rush and found the end zone on the next play.
Lynch's first pass out of the break was picked off by Brian Suite at the Northern Illinois 31, and seven plays later, Garretson connected with Swindall for the 5-yard score.
The teams traded empty possessions until DeMartino capped off an elongated 17- play, 80-yard drive that took 7:19 off the game clock with a 1-yard touchdown rush. The Aggies converted on four third down situations on the trek, which began on their own 20-yard line.
Faced with third-down at the NIU 1-yard line, DeMartino bulled his way in from a yard out, and Garretson connected with Bruce Natson for the two-point conversion and a 21-7 lead with just 4:14 remaining.
The Huskies added a quick touchdown as Lynch found Juwan Brescacin in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown, but were unable to recover the onside kick and the Aggies were able to run off the remaining time.
The Aggies improved to 3-6 all-time in bowl games ... Utah State is 3-51 all- time against ranked opponents ... The Aggies are 2-0 all-time against NIU. Utah State defeated the Huskies 42-7 in 1995 ... Utah State head coach Matt Wells set the school-record for wins by a first-year head coach ... Lynch posted his lowest rushing total since picking up just 35 yards on nine carries against Purdue on Sept. 28 ... NIU fell to 5-9 all-time in bowl games.
12/27 01:34:57 ET