DETROIT - 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 last 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," Wolfe 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 two-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 three-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 seven-yard draw for a touchdown that pulled the Zips within 27-24.
"It was an unbelievable finish," Brookhart said.
Getsy was 30-of-50 for 413 yards, and Hixon had eight catches for 144 yards.42.33168 -83.04792