Toledo, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Another second-half surge has Northern Illinois two games away from perfection.
Jordan Lynch ran for three second-half touchdowns as No. 20 Northern Illinois defeated Toledo, 35-17, on Wednesday night.
After outscoring Ball State 28-3 in the second half last Wednesday, the Huskies scored touchdowns on each of their first four second-half possessions in this one.
The darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate Lynch was 17-of-22 through the air for 202 yards, while running for 161 yards on 28 carries for Northern Illinois (11-0, 7-0 MAC), which clinched the MAC West division with the victory.
"If he's not in the Heisman conversation, I don't know who should be in the country," Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey said. "He's doing it with his legs and with his arm and with leadership. I'm just really proud of him and everybody tonight."
The triumph also preserved the Huskies' chances for a second straight Bowl Championship Series appearance. Northern Illinois lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl last season and are 16th in the BCS standings. The Huskies need to stay undefeated and pass Fresno State in the BCS to have a shot.
NIU, which extended its nation's longest road winning streak to 15 games and ran its conference winning streak to 24 games, plays Western Michigan Tuesday in its regular season finale. The MAC Championship Game is Dec. 6.
Cameron Stingily added 146 yards rushing on 18 totes and Juwan Brescacin caught eight balls for 121 yards in the win.
Terrance Owens was 17-of-29 for 235 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions for the Rockets (7-4, 5-2), who had their five-game winning streak snapped. Alonzo Russell had five receptions for 100 yards and a score in defeat.
"We didn't stop the run in the second half and that's unfortunate," Rockets head coach Matt Campbell said.
Despite turning the ball over twice in the first half, the Rockets managed to take a 10-7 lead into the break, but the Huskies went 85 yards in six plays on their opening touch of the second half.
Lynch hit Jacob Brinlee and Brescacin for 37 and 32 yards, respectively, before Lynch scampered in from 12 yards out to put Northern Illinois in front.
Toledo answered right back as Owens fired a 36-yard strike to Bernard Reedy to make it 17-14.
Lynch capped NIU's ensuing 6-play, 65-yard trek with a 31-yard TD burst up the middle on 3rd-and-2 for a 21-17 advantage with 6:15 to go in the frame.
David Fluellen moved the chains on a 4th-and-2 on Toledo's next march, but elected to punt on 4th-and-9 at NIU 35 instead of trying a long field goal. Jeremiah Detmer then pinned his punt down to the 1-yard line.
The Huskies, though, went end-to-end for another score. Lynch picked up seven yards on a 3rd-and-6 before Angelo Sebastiano picked up 20 on the ground on the ensuing 3rd-and-1. Lynch then rushed for 18 and 20 yards on back-to-back plays a few snaps later and he concluded the 15-play sequence with a 1-yard TD plunge to give NIU a 28-17 margin early in the fourth.
"When you flip field position, they flipped it on us and had us on the one. Then you flip it back and you get points, it changes the game. It changes every part of the game," Carey said.
Following a Toledo three-and-out, James Spencer's 1-yard TD run put the game away.
Earlier, George Rainey's strip-sack of Owens on the first offensive play from scrimmage led to a Spencer 19-yard TD run three snaps later to give the visitors the early lead.
Mathew Sims missed a 23-yard field goal on the Huskies' third offensive possession and Toledo capped its ensuing trek with a Jeremiah Detmer 36-yard field goal late in the first.
Toledo drove down to the NIU 2 on its next touch, but Boomer Hayes intercepted Kareem Hunt in the end zone.
Sims then pushed two more field goals wide for the Huskies to close the half.
After missing from 40 yards out, Owens connected with Russell down the right sideline for a 45-yard score with 51 ticks left in the half.
Lynch then drove down to the Toledo 30, but Sims was off from 47 yards out.
Northern Illinois outgained Toledo, 566-419 ... The Huskies were 10-of-15 on third down, while the Rockets finished 10-of-17 ... Reedy tallied four receptions for 63 yards.
11/21 01:46:49 ET