Bowling Green captures MAC title at Ford Field

Posted at 12:48 PM, Dec 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-05 12:48:34-05
DETROIT (AP) -- A year after a hip injury forced him to miss the Mid-American Conference title game, Matt Johnson could celebrate a championship.
And a record he set when he surpassed one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history.
Johnson threw two scoring passes, and Travis Greene ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns to lift Bowling Green over Northern Illinois 34-14 in the MAC title game Friday night.
Johnson threw for 235 yards, bringing his season total to a MAC-record 4,700. The Bowling Green senior broke the mark of 4,486 yards passing set by Ben Roethlisberger in 2003.
This wasn't Johnson's best game -- he threw two interceptions -- but the win capped a stellar comeback after he broke his hip in the 2014 season opener. That injury cost Johnson a chance to play in last year's MAC title game, when Bowling Green lost to Northern Illinois 51-17.
"I battled through a lot of adversity. There was good days, there was bad days, but ultimately the goal was to get back out on the field and just play with my brothers again," Johnson said. "Once we got here, we weren't going to let it slip away."
This year it was Northern Illinois that had to deal with injury problems at quarterback. After Drew Hare and Ryan Graham both got hurt, the Huskies gave walk-on freshman Tommy Fiedler his first career start in the title game. He went 12 of 28 for 152 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
"I thought he prepared really well all week. The guys prepared really well," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "I don't think we played well enough and in the end I don't think we coached well enough. It starts with me and trickles down to everyone else."
The Falcons (10-3) took back the league title in the third straight matchup between the teams in the championship game. Northern Illinois won last year after Bowling Green won in 2013.
This was the 12th MAC title for Bowling Green.
Northern Illinois (8-5) was making its sixth straight appearance in the title game, but the Huskies fell behind 28-0 early in the third quarter.
Now the victorious Falcons will have to wait and see if coach Dino Babers moves on to another job. He was asked about his future after the game.
"My future right now is with these guys, and we're going to celebrate this win, and it's going to be special," Babers said. "I'm not going to let anyone take that away from us, and we'll go to sleep, and we'll get together over the weekend, and then we'll start and we'll talk about other things."
With the Falcons up 7-0, Northern Illinois made it to the Bowling Green 12 late in the first quarter, but a fumble on fourth down ended that drive, and the Huskies didn't come close to scoring for the rest of the half.
Johnson threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Derek Lee in the second quarter, and a 25-yard TD run by Greene made it 21-0 at halftime.
Bowling Green outgained Northern Illinois 288-72 in the first half, and early in the third quarter, Johnson found Roger Lewis for a 45-yard catch-and-run that made it 28-0.
The Falcons finally scored later in that period on 32-yard pass from Fiedler to Desroy Maxwell. Then Shawun Lurry intercepted Johnson's pass and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-14.
Bowling Green responded with an 83-yard drive that ended with Greene's 1-yard touchdown run.
Joel Bouagnon of Northern Illinois, the MAC's leading rusher, was held to 57 yards on 14 carries.
"We're obviously proud to be here six straight times, three with our staff and I've obviously been a part of five straight," Carey said. "It's an accomplishment for now. That's something we'll look back on with a little more fondness later on."
Johnson threw five touchdown passes when the Falcons won the 2013 title game before he lost almost his entire 2014 season to his hip injury. In addition to passing Roethlisberger for the single-season record for yards passing Friday, Johnson also took sole possession of the MAC's single-season mark for touchdown passes. He now has 43 in 2015.