SAN DIEGO, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Joey DeMartino ran for 143 yards and scored the deciding touchdown Thursday to lead Utah State past Northern Illinois 21-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Utah State, which won five games in a row before losing in the Mountain West Conference title game to Fresno State, slowed down an offensive machine that had produced the fifth most yards and the eighth most points in major college football this season.
With the Aggies clinging to a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, quarterback Darell Garretson led them 88 yards in 18 plays -- a drive that took 7:19 off the clock.
That drive ended with DeMartino, playing his final college game, scoring on a 1-yard run. The ensuing two-point conversion put the Aggies in front by 14 with 4:14 to play.
The Northern Illinois offense then briefly came to life with the Huskies driving to a touchdown that came on a fourth-down, 15-yard throw from Jordan Lynch to Juwan Brescacin with 1:44 left. The onside kick, however, was recovered by the Aggies and they ran out the clock to end their season with a 9-5 record.
Northern Illinois owned a 7-6 halftime lead, but Utah State took the lead for good on a Garretson-to-Brandon Swindall scoring pass early in the third quarter.
The Huskies (12-2) lost their second game in a row, having fallen to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference championship contest after winning 12 straight.
Northern Illinois averaged 41.6 points and 535.5 yards per game during their 13 outings prior to the bowl. The Huskies produced only 315 yards against the Aggies and Northern Illinois scored 13 fewer points than they did in any other game this season.
Lynch, third in the Heisman Trophy balloting, was 20-of-35 for 216 yards and an interception. Lunch also fumbled the ball away on Northern Illinois' second possession of the game. The Huskies missed two field goals as well and failed to convert a 4th-and-3 opportunity at the Utah State 25-yard line in the first half.
The outcome finished off a disappointing night for the Mid-American Conference. League champion Bowling Green fell to Pittsburgh earlier in the evening, leaving the MAC with an 0-4 bowl record this season. Ball State will try to bring the league what would be its only bowl win when it meets Arkansas State on Jan. 5.