7:30 PM ET, December 1, 2005
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.
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.
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.