UTAH STATE BEATS LYNCH, NO. 24 NIU: Brian Suite intercepted a Jordan Lynch pass and recovered a fumble by the Heisman Trophy finalist to help Utah State beat No. 24 Northern Illinois 21-14 on Thursday night in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.
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).
Lynch, who was third in the Heisman Trophy voting and made The Associated Press All-America team as an all-purpose player, had a rough end to his college career. Besides the two turnovers, the Mount Carmel graduate 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.
Lynch ran for a touchdown and passed for another for NIU (12-2), which lost its second straight game.
CONNER LEADS PITT TO WIN OVER BOWLING GREEN: James Conner rushed for 229 yards — breaking a Pittsburgh bowl record held by Tony Dorsett — and Chris Blewitt kicked a tiebreaking field goal with 1:17 remaining, lifting the Panthers to a 30-27 win over Bowling Green on Thursday night in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Conner also played a handful of snaps on the defensive line, and fellow freshman Tyler Boyd gave Pitt (7-6) a boost with eight catches for 173 yards.
Boyd also scored on a punt return in the first half, although Bowling Green (10-4) tied it at 17 when BooBoo Gates took the second-half kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
SPARTANS' BULLOUGH SUSPENDED FOR ROSE BOWL: Michigan State has suspended senior linebacker Max Bullough for violating team rules, making him ineligible to play in the Rose Bowl.
In a news release sent early Thursday, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Bullough had been suspended for the rest of the season. He did not say what rules the two-time team captain violated.
"It is extremely disappointing for all parties involved," Dantonio said.
The No. 4 Spartans will play No. 5 Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. It is Michigan State's seventh straight bowl game and first appearance in the Rose Bowl in 26 seasons.
Bullough, from Traverse City, had 76 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss this season, earning him third-team All-America honors and first-team All-Big Ten honors. He has 299 career tackles and made 40 consecutive starts.
PACKERS' RODGERS BACK, TO START BEARS GAME: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will return to start Sunday's game for the NFC North title against the Bears.
Coach Mike McCarthy announced Thursday that Rodgers will be back after missing seven games because of a left collarbone injury.
Green Bay (7-7-1) is 2-5-1 since Rodgers went down during the first series of a 27-20 loss Nov. 4 to Chicago. But the Packers have managed to hang on with a shot to win a third straight division title with a victory over the Bears at Soldier Field.
BEARS SIGN WR WILLIAMS: The Bears have signed receiver Chris Williams from the New Orleans Saints practice squad.
Williams entered the NFL in 2009 as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins out of New Mexico State. He spent the past 12 weeks on the Saints' practice squad. Williams has also played on the Cleveland Browns' practice squad and spent time in the CFL.
The Bears also announced on Thursday they have waived defensive tackle Christian Tupou.
BULLS SEND TEAGUE TO D-LEAGUE: The Bulls assigned guard Marquis Teague to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League on Thursday.
A first-round draft pick out of Kentucky in 2012, Teague has appeared in 19 games this season and made two starts. He is averaging 2.4 points and 1.5 assists.
POSTING PERIOD FOR JAPANESE PITCHER TANAKA STARTS: The bidding for Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has begun.
All 30 major league teams have been notified that the 30-day period to sign the star 25-year-old right-hander began at 7 a.m. Thursday, according to Major League Baseball spokesman Michael Teevan. Clubs have until 4 p.m. on Jan. 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the ace.
If Tanaka and a major league team come to terms, that franchise is required to pay his Japanese club, the Rakuten Eagles, a posting fee, now capped at $20 million under the new deal between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball.
Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA with the Eagles during the regular season.