(Tribune illustration / April 30, 2012)

MUNCIE, Ind. — Jordan Lynch got off the bus running … and running and running some more.

Lynch, who entered Saturday's game against Ball State leading the nation's quarterbacks in rushing, ran for 207 yards and three touchdowns, including a 71-yard sprint that gave Northern Illinois a nice 12-point cushion with 3 minutes 3 seconds left in the game.

The junior's efficient offensive stats helped the Huskies (5-1, 2-0 MAC) emerge with a 35-23 comeback victory at Scheumann Stadium.

"Whatever the defense gives us, that's what we're going to take," said Lynch, who had 29 carries for a 7.1-yard average. "The quarterback running game is huge in this offense. If they need me to carry it 20 times, I'll carry it 20 times."

He continues to impress NIU coach Dave Doeren.

"He's a great player and I think everybody knows that now," Doeren said after his team scored 14 fourth-quarter points to stun the Cardinals (3-3, 1-2).

Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning came away with the snazzy passing stats, tossing a school-record 71 passes while completing 42 of them for 434 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw two interceptions.

But it was Lynch's clutch overall play that made the difference. Lynch also completed 16 of 23 passes for 195 yards, including a 54-yard toss to Akeem Daniels that gave the Huskies a 28-23 advantage with 4:48 remaining.

"I know our offense is capable of a big play at any time," Lynch said. "We just needed to settle down. We were beating ourselves all game. We did that in the fourth quarter and everything took care of itself."

NIU won its fifth straight and came from behind to win for the third time.

"We're a good fourth-quarter team. I think we do a good job of wearing guys down and believing in the plan," Doeren said. "Our word for the week was perseverance. The route to Akeem was a big-time call. Jordan threw a great ball and obviously Akeem finished the play. "

Northern Illinois somehow was able to overcome its 2 of 12 third-down inefficiency.

"I just thought Ball State did a nice job; we didn't execute well. We didn't throw and catch the ball very good today," Doeren said. "We had two receivers (Martel Moore and Tommylee Lewis) who didn't practice last week and you could see it."

Ball State kicker Steven Schott booted three field goals in the first half, but missed from 34 and 33 yards late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to change the momentum.

The victory assured the Huskies of retaining the Bronze Stalk Trophy.

"I told the guys that if we're on the bus (home) for five hours without the Stalk, it's going to be a long ride," Doeren said. "I'm glad we can put that thing in the seat next to me and have a nice trip home."

fmitchell@tribune.com

Twitter @kicker34