Dekalb, Ill. A few seconds after reporters were asked if they had any final questions, Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren spoke up himself.
“Nobody wants to ask about the 12-yard gain on the quarterback sneak, huh?” Doeren said with a smile following NIU’s 30-23 victory over Kansas on Saturday at Huskie Stadium. “That was, like, the best play of the game. I went nuts.”
For Doeren, the play signified the reason he believed his MAC team was able to come back from a 10-point deficit against a BCS opponent: toughness in the fourth quarter.
“When you can finish the game being the most physical team on the field, you’re going to win a lot of games,” Doeren said. “That was the first thing I challenged these guys on last Sunday. I said, ‘The most physical team in Huskie Stadium will win the game,’ and we were.
“We showed it on that play. Have you ever seen a sneak go for 12? That was big-time.”
Doeren actually was selling his team short.
With the game tied at 23 and less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Doeren called for the QB sneak on a third-and-one at the KU 26.
NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, who plowed ahead into his line before breaking free, actually gained 14 yards to the KU 12.
NIU running back Leighton Settle scored the go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard TD run two plays later.
“I’m just proud the way we finish games around here,” Doeren said.
A native of Shawnee Mission, Doeren was an assistant for Mark Mangino at KU from 2002-05.
“Being from Kansas and working there, it’s great,” Doeren said of the victory. “I know my mom’s probably more excited about that part of it than I am. I’m just proud of our players.”
The coach believed one key for NIU was getting KU out of its Jayhawk formation and into “normal football.”
“The whole second half seemed like Wildcat-fest there for a while,” Doeren said. “They were just trying to run the football. Once we started scoring, they couldn’t do it any more. We didn’t change anything against that; we just finally got them out of it.
“I wish we could have got them out of it a lot earlier, because that was a lot of fun there at the end.”
Lynch rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth straight game, picking up 134 yards on 22 carries.
He also went 23-for-35 passing for 235 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the Huskies’ hurry-up offense.
“That’s our tempo,” Lynch said. “When we do what we have to do and play mistake-free football, there’s not a lot of teams that can stop us.”