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Northern Illinois wins MAC and BCS lobbying begins

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Northern Illinois wins MAC and BCS lobbying begins

DETROIT (AP) After two straight Mid-American Conference titles, Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren figures his team is worthy of a major reward.

The Huskies are hoping to play in a BCS bowl - and although their chances appear slim, Doeren wasted no time promoting his team's credentials.

``You look at the top 16 teams in the BCS, and you aren't going to find a team that plays as consistently as we do, wins every game they are supposed to win, and plays as well as we do in every phase of the game,'' Doeren said.

``We got big plays on offense when we needed them tonight, we got big plays on defense, and our kicker made every kick we needed. I don't know anyone else who brings all of that.''

Jordan Lynch ran for three touchdowns, including a 2-yarder in the second overtime, and Demetrius Stone's interception in the end zone gave No. 19 Northern Illinois a 44-37 victory over No. 18 Kent State in a stirring MAC championship game Friday night.

Both teams were hoping a win would boost them into the top 16 of the BCS rankings and give them a berth in one of college football's marquee bowls. Kent State was No. 17 in those standings coming in. The Huskies were No. 21 and need an unlikely jump.

Northern Illinois could pass Kent State and UCLA, which is 16th in the BCS rankings but lost the Pac-12 title game to Stanford on Friday night. Texas is 18th and plays at Kansas State on Saturday, while Boise State is 20th and plays at Nevada. But Michigan is 19th and doesn't play at all this weekend.

The Huskies (12-1) dominated for much of the night, but the Golden Flashes (11-2) tied it at 34 in the final minute of regulation.

Kent State trailed 27-13 earlier in the fourth before scoring two touchdowns in a 15-second span.

It was 34-all at the end of regulation, and after the teams traded field goals in the first overtime, Northern Illinois needed only two plays to reach the end zone. A 23-yard run by Akeem Daniels set up Lynch's final TD.

Kent State reached the 9, but on fourth down Spencer Keith had to scramble to his right and throw a desperation pass that was picked off by Stone in the end zone.

``That was a great football game, but it is going to be hard for us to swallow for a few days,'' Kent State coach Darrell Hazell said. ``Lynch is just an extraordinary football player, and we had a lot of trouble tackling him. We're not the first team he's done that against.''

Northern Illinois won its second straight MAC title, the first team to do that since Central Michigan in 2006-07.

Lynch threw for 212 yards and ran for 160, but it almost wasn't enough. Northern Illinois' three previous trips to the MAC title game were decided in the final minute, and this one took even longer.

Down by two touchdowns, Kent State rallied in stunning fashion. Keith's 5-yard touchdown run with 4:53 remaining in the fourth quarter capped a 96-yard drive. Then Lynch fumbled on what looked like a botched exchange with Daniels, and Zack Hitchens picked up the ball for the Golden Flashes and went 22 yards to the end zone.

``It was two great players making a mistake, and as soon as they got off the field, I told them that we were going right back to them on the next drive,'' Doeren said.

Lynch weaved his way to a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:12 remaining, but Kent State again had an answer. Keith scrambled to his left and threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Tim Erjavec with 44 seconds to play.

It was the first MAC championship game to go to overtime - a thrilling finish for a league that doesn't always get much attention. This year's title game had more at stake because of the BCS implications, and the league embraced a Twitter-friendly buzzword that seemed particularly appropriate Friday night.

``I love the word `MACtion' that everyone is using,'' Doeren said. ``You've got great teams and great coaches in this league - we prove that every year - and we just went out with a huge target on our backs and won every game. That's a great accomplishment.''

The Huskies haven't lost to a MAC opponent since Oct. 1, 2011. Their only defeat this season was against Iowa in the season opener.

With Northern Illinois leading 17-13 in the third quarter Friday, Lynch led the Huskies on a 10-play, 75-yard drive and capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run. The highlight of that drive was Lynch's 44-yard run to the Kent State 4. On the play, Lynch broke the major-college record for yards rushing by a quarterback in a single season. He finished the game with 1,771 yards. The previous mark was 1,702 by Michigan's Denard Robinson in 2010.

The Golden Flashes got off to the start they wanted, taking a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. But that was a bit deceiving. Kent State's touchdown came after A.J. Sebastiano fumbled on a punt return, giving the Golden Flashes the ball at the 22. Dri Archer's 15-yard scoring run made it 7-0.

Kent State took advantage of a short field again after a Northern Illinois punt bounced backward and was downed at the NIU 36. Freddy Cortez kicked a 37-yard field goal.

It was all Huskies for the rest of the half. They tied it at 10 on a 14-yard pass from Lynch to Martel Moore in the second quarter. Dechan Durante then made an acrobatic interception, reaching over receiver Chris Humphrey to pick off Keith's pass near the sideline.

Northern Illinois drove 58 yards in 12 plays and took a 17-10 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Daniels.

The Huskies outgained Kent State 245-50 in the half and 524-260 for the game.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have announced the formation of a new organization called 'Nats for Masks' that will help provide masks to underprivileged and at-risk populations in DMV area.

As part of the initiative, the Scherzers will auction off some of their personal collection of memorabilia to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the DMV. Some of the auction items available included autographed game-used jerseys, caps, and even Max’s 2019 All-Star Game nameplate.

Giving back to the community is nothing new to the Scherzer family. As animal lovers, back in 2017 during the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Scherzer’s rallied to cover adoption fees for all animals at the Washington-based Humane Rescue Alliance in order to make space for animals brought in from Houston.

Erica is also on the Board of Directors of the Humane Rescue Alliance, and Max has also contributed in the past in a PSA to raise awareness for the shelter.

https://twitter.com/HumaneRescue/status/861982319892193284?s=20

As if we needed another reason to adore the Scherzer family and what they do for our community, just add this to the list.

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