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Lombardi, Northern Illinois beat Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl

Rocky Lombardi Northern Illinois Rocky Lombardi - The Canadian Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- — Rocky Lombardi passed and ran for a touchdown and Northern Illinois held on for a 21-19 victory over Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl on Saturday when the Red Wolves couldn't convert a late two-point pass.

Antario Brown ran for 132 yards for the Huskies (7-6), who won six of their final eight games. Neither team scored in the second half until Jaylen Raynor's 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:14 left to Corey Rucker, who broke a tackle at about the 6. Raynor's potential tying two-point pass sailed out of the end zone.

Arkansas State (6-7) couldn't convert the onside kick, getting called for offsides on the first of two attempts to prompt a heated protest from coach Butch Jones.

The 25-year-old Lombardi completed his seventh and final college season by going 18 of 29 for 200 yards despite a pair of interceptions. He spent four years at Michigan State and three at Northern Illinois, receiving a medical redshirt last season.

Grayson Barnes had 105 yards and a score on five catches. Brown ran 25 times.

Arkansas State's Raynor, the Sun Belt Conference freshman of the year, matched his older counterpart. Raynor was 16-of-30 passing for 250 yards with a pair of TDs and an interception. Rucker had five catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

The game was a matchup of two of the seven teams that made bowls after winning three or fewer games in 2022.


Arkansas State finished with a losing record but doubled last season's win total.

Northern Illinois wasn't successful on every gamble, opening with a failed two-point attempt and failing on an onside kick. But the Huskies held onto the ball for more than 40 minutes.


Arkansas State is trying to keep building under Jones, an ex-Tennessee coach. The Red Wolves open next season Aug. 31 against Central Arkansas.

Northern Illinois must replace Lombardi at quarterback. It opens 2024 against Western Illinois on Aug. 31.


AP college football: and