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SAN DIEGO (AP) - The memorable season for dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois was capped by a forgettable December.
The Huskies lost to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference title game on Dec. 6, erasing their hopes for an undefeated season and a BCS bid. Then Lynch finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
And finally, Thursday night's Poinsettia Bowl, when Utah State took the air out of Jordan.
Safety Brian Suite intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble by Lynch to help the Aggies beat No. 24 Northern Illinois 21-14.
"It was a great season," Lynch said. "It kind of (stinks) that we lost the last game but it shouldn't define us. We had a great senior class _ winningest class in NIU history and we would have liked to get the W. It's been a great career for the seniors."
Said coach Rod Carey: "We've got to take the burden of this one and it's a tough way to end a great season. Listen, this is a really bad end to a really good year."
Joey DeMartino, who went to high school and junior college in San Diego, carried 23 times for 143 yards and a touchdown for Utah State (9-5). He was the offensive MVP.
Besides the two turnovers, Lynch was held to just 39 yards rushing, keeping him from becoming the first major college player to rush for 2,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season.
He extended his major college record for yards rushing for a quarterback in a season to 1,920. He also completed 20 of 35 passes for 216 yards.
Lynch ran for a touchdown and passed for another for NIU (12-2), which ended the season with two straight losses.
Lynch's pass was intercepted on the first play of the third quarter by Suite, setting up a go-ahead, 5-yard touchdown pass from Darrel Garretson to Brandon Swindall.
The Aggies put it away when DeMartino scored on a 1-yard TD run with 4:14 to go for a 21-7 lead. It capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 7:19.
Lynch threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Juwan Brescacin with 1:44 left to pull NIU to 21-14. NIU tried an onside kicked that USU recovered.
There were four turnovers and three missed field goals. The game drew only 23,408 to 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium, the lowest attendance in the bowl's nine-year history.
Suite also recovered Lynch's fumble in the first quarter.
With NIU trailing 13-7, safety Jimmie Ward intercepted Garretson near the goal line. The Huskies failed to convert the turnover into any points as Mathew Sims was wide right on 29-yard field goal attempt.
"I thought we had momentum," Ward said. "But they made a few more plays than we did. But I felt like the defense did a really great job today."
The teams staggered through an unimpressive first half that included a missed field goal by each team, a shanked punt by NIU and a lost fumble by Lynch.
Lynch scored on a 1-yard run with 8:17 left in the second quarter to cap a 15-play, 78-yard drive and give NIU a 7-6 lead.
Lynch ended NIU's second possession by losing a fumble at midfield. Utah State responded with a 31-yard field goal by Nick Diaz.
NIU's Mathew Sims was wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt, and DeMartino had a 58-yard run to set up Diaz's 39-yard field goal.
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