DeKalb, Ill. — Tyrice Richie took a shovel pass in the Northern Illinois backfield, added an acrobatic flip over a would-be tackler near midfield and turned it all into a 71-yard touchdown to spark the Huskies to a 17-14 win over Western Michigan in the season finale Tuesday night.
Michael Love tossed a 7-yard scoring pass to Mitchell Brinkman midway through the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Western Michigan would have clinched the MAC West Division and a trip to the conference championship game with a win. The Broncos can still win the West if Central Michigan loses to Toledo on Friday. If CMU beats Toledo, the Chippewas will play Miami in the MAC championship game at Ford Field.
Down 10-0 at intermission, LeVante Bellamy brought Western Michigan back with second-half touchdown runs of 6- and 16-yards.
The victory moves the Huskies to 4-4 in the MAC in Thomas Hammock’s first season as head coach at his alma mater. Overall NIU finished 5-7, with a string of four straight losses early in the season to Utah, Nebraska, Vanderbilt and Ball State.
NIU finished with 250 yards of total offense in the game. Richie’s 71-yard catch made up most of the team’s 93-yard passing total.
Bellamy finished with 21 carries for 128 yards to lead Western Michigan (7-5, 5-3).
Ohio State is No. 1 in CFP
Ohio State jumped LSU to No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings with two weeks left to go before selection Sunday.
LSU slipped to second Tuesday night and Clemson remained third while Georgia held on at four. If playoff history holds form, three of those top four teams will reach the semifinals.
Alabama remained No. 5 in the selection committee’s third rankings, with Utah moving up a spot to No. 6. The Utes are the only Pac-12 team in the top 10 after Oregon dropped eight spots to 14th.
Oklahoma is seventh followed by Minnesota, Baylor and Penn State. Michigan is 13th.
In each of the first five years of the playoff, three of the top four teams in the rankings heading into rivalry weekend reached the semifinals, including the No. 1 team every time.
Now that spot belongs to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State beat Penn State last week 28-17, its third victory of the season against team currently ranked along with No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 18 Cincinnati. LSU has beaten No. 5 Alabama, No. 11 Florida and No. 15 Auburn.
Memphis is 17th, remaining the highest ranked team from the Group of Five conferences. The highest ranked conference champion from outside the Power Five is guaranteed a spot in the New Year’s Six bowls. This year that would be the Cotton Bowl. Memphis and Cincinnati play this week and could meet the next week in the conference championship game. Boise State from the Mountain West is 20th.
Missouri appeal rejected
The NCAA has rejected an appeal by the University of Missouri to limit or overturn sanctions for infractions tied to the case of a former tutor.
The school filed a 64-page brief to the NCAA’s appeals committee in March arguing that the penalties handed down Jan. 31 are contrary to NCAA precedent, were not supported or appropriate given the nature of the allegations and could have a chilling effect on future NCAA enforcement.
The football, baseball and softball teams were banned from the postseason for a year, the entire athletic department was placed on probation and Missouri was docked scholarships and given recruiting restrictions.
The case dates to 2016 when tutor Yolanda Kumar acknowledged she had violated NCAA rules by doing course work and ensuring athletes in football, baseball and softball passed certain courses.
After an investigation, Missouri self-imposed many penalties and hoped its work closely with the NCAA would result in leniency.