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Nation: N. Illinois' bowl shot gets shaky

Wire services
Published November 16, 2003

TOLEDO, Ohio - Northern Illinois has fallen from the ranks of the undefeated to being in danger of missing out on a bowl bid.

Bruce Gradkowski threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, leading Toledo 49-30 over the Huskies. Gradkowski flawlessly directed Toledo's spread offense, completing 24-of-27.

His biggest throw came after three penalties gave the Rockets third and 33 late in the third quarter. Gradkowski found tight end Andrew Clarke alone over the middle and he rumbled 60 yards to put Toledo ahead 35-24.

The Huskies grabbed the nation's attention a few weeks ago while rising to No.12 in the rankings. The MAC has tie-ins with two bowls - the Motor City and GMAC - and Bowling Green and Miami of Ohio are in better shape than the Huskies.

"If we are 10-2 or anybody in this league is 10-2 and we don't go to a bowl game, that's wrong," Huskies coach Joe Novak said. "That's where our bowl system is screwed up."

The loss all but eliminated the Huskies from a spot in the conference championship. Miami (Ohio) has clinched the East, and Bowling Green must win at Ball State next weekend, then against Toledo to take the West.

BOISE STATE 51, UTEP 21: Ryan Dinwiddie threw two touchdowns and ran for another for the Broncos. Dinwiddie completed 13-of-22 for 198 yards and ran three times for 40 yards as Boise State won for the 31st time in 32 games and its 17th straight at home.

Six Broncos scored touchdowns, and Tyler Jones kicked three field goals as Boise State extended its WAC win streak to 15. BSU scored on five of its first six possessions to take a 38-7 lead at halftime. Dinwiddie guided the Broncos to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter when Lee Marks, David Mikell and Donny Heck scored rushing TDs.

Texas-El Paso's Howard Jackson reached the 1,000-yard mark with an 18-yard run in the fourth, but was limited to 47 total yards rushing, halting his streak of four straight 100-yard games.

BOWLING GREEN 42, KENT ST. 33: Josh Harris threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns for the host Falcons. Bowling Green scored touchdowns on its first four possessions in the second half. Harris led the time-consuming drives of at least 67 yards each and capped the final march with a 5-yard touchdown run.

The Falcons led 35-14 early in the fourth, but Kent State rallied, relying on speedy quarterback Joshua Cribbs, who rushed for 196 yards and passed for 239. His 1-yard TD run with 5:01 left cut the lead to 35-27.

NOTRE DAME 33, BYU 14: Julius Jones ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns, and D.J. Fitzpatrick kicked four field goals for the Irish. Notre Dame intercepted three of Matt Berry's passes, recovered a fumble and held BYU without a first down after the Cougars' first possession of the second quarter until early in the fourth.

Notre Dame, which finished 2-3 at home for its first losing season at Notre Dame Stadium since 1984, has won two straight for the first time this season. BYU will finish with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1970-71 - just before LaVell Edwards became coach.

DIVISION III: Mount Union won its 12th consecutive Ohio Conference championship with a 58-0 victory over host Wilmington that also clinched a playoff berth for the three-time defending national champion. The Purple Raiders won their 85th straight game in the OAC and 52nd in a row overall, two short of their NCAA record.

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