<
>

Akron shocks Northern Illinois, advances to bowl

DETROIT (AP) -- The Akron Zips won the first conference title in
school history, wrapped up a berth in the Motor City Bowl -- and
hope they earned some national attention.

Luke Getsy threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with
10 seconds left to give Akron a 31-30 victory over Northern
Illinois on Thursday night in the Mid-American Conference
championship game at Ford Field.

"This is a huge moment, not just for our football program, but
for our athletic department and our university," Zips coach J.D.
Brookhart said. "This was the best three-hour advertisement you
could ask for, because we are still in the building phase of this
program."

The Zips (7-5) overcame a national conference championship-game
record 270 yards and two touchdowns by Huskies tailback Garrett Wolfe.

"In the fourth quarter, if I could have broken one more tackle
or made one more move, maybe we could have gotten the first down we
needed," he said. "We lost the game, so it doesn't matter how
many yards I had."

Akron's winning drive started on its own 19 with 1:41 left and
no timeouts. The Zips drove into Northern Illinois (7-5) territory
and Hixon beat Adriel Hansbro down the middle of the field and
grabbed Getsy's pass deep in the end zone.

"We were two yards short of the first down that would have
ended the game," Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak said. "We
couldn't make the play when we needed one, and they did."

The Zips had never won a football title in any conference,
dating to their joining the Ohio Athletic Conference in 1915.

Wolfe had 42 carries and easily broke the previous MAC
title-game record of 188 yards, set by Toledo's Chester Taylor in
2001, and the 2-year-old national record of 235 yards, set by
Kansas State's Darren Sproles.

The score was tied at 10 at halftime.

Wolfe raced 62 yards to the Zips 20 midway through the third,
then scored his second touchdown on a 12-yard burst.

After a fumble, the Huskies made it 24-10 when Dan Nicholson hit
Sam Hurd at the goal line with a 19-yard scoring pass.

The Zips rallied and cut the margin to 24-17 on a 3-yard run by
Brett Biggs with 13:53 remaining.

Chris Nendick pushed Northern Illinois' lead back to 10 points
with a championship game-record 52-yard field goal. But Getsy
countered with a 7-yard draw for a touchdown that pulled the Zips
within 27-24.

Nendick's third field goal, a 46-yarder, made it a six-point
game with 3:28 to go.

Akron drove to the Northern Illinois 33, before Getsy's pass
bounced off the hands of Dennis Kennedy and was intercepted by
linebacker Phil Brown.

Northern Illinois went three-and-out, forcing Akron to use all
three timeouts, but the Zips got possession and Getsy drove for the
winning score.

"It was an unbelievable finish," Brookhart said. "We found a
way to go 80 yards."

Getsy was 30-of-50 for 413 yards, and Hixon had eight catches
for 144 yards.

The game was as wild as the teams' first meeting, which Akron
won 48-42 in overtime on Sept. 24.

Akron took a 3-0 lead on their first possession on Jason
Swiger's 47-yard field goal, the longest in MAC title-game history
until Nendick's kick three quarters later.

The teams then traded short rushing touchdowns, as Kennedy put
Akron up 10-0 with a 3-yard run. Wolfe made it 10-7 with a 1-yard
dive.

Swiger narrowly missed a 46-yard field goal attempt. Nendick
tied the game at 10 with a 21-yarder.