With his team against the ropes last Wednesday, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch played like the Heisman candidate he is, leading the Huskies to a huge win over Ball State and keeping their BCS hopes alive.
Northern Illinois scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Cardinals, eventually winning by the deceptively large margin of 48-27 and advancing to 10-0 on the year.
Lynch finished with 345 passing yards, 123 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was his 10th career game with 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, two more than Johnny Manziel and the most by any FBS quarterback since 2004.
Despite the final margin, this game was actually tied when NIU got the ball back with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. But from there, Lynch engineered—nay, willed his team to—a pair of impressive scoring drives that won and iced the game.
On the first drive, the game-winner, Lynch completed a crucial 3rd-and-11 pass to Matt Williams before launching a 36-yard touchdown to Da'Ron Brown.
After the Huskies stopped Ball State on 4th-and-1 around midfield, Lynch led them back into the red zone, then plowed in for a score from 16 yards out to seal the win.
The game included a pretty nice "Heisman Moment," too. On an earlier touchdown drive, with NIU trailing 24-20, Lynch broke out of a seemingly impossible situation to rush for a first down on 3rd-and-10:
After the game, Huskies head coach Rod Carey was emphatic about Lynch's Heisman candidacy. According to Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com, he had a lot to say on the subject:
Now I'm just going to say this, and don't anybody take offense, and you guys can just close your ears for a second. I don't know—if Jordan isn't in the conversation for the Heisman, I don't know what people are watching. They obviously were asleep, OK?
So in my estimation, that trophy goes to the best player in the nation, OK? Well with the performance that he had today—and he had help, believe me, we had a lot of good plays out there from everybody—but from the performance he had tonight, he dang sure should be in that conversation. I'll head that off right now as we go.
The always-humble Lynch, however, does not want to sell himself as hard. He actually took his coach's advice and covered his ears during the plea.
"I wasn't listening. I closed my ears. So I don't know what you're talking about," said Lynch, according to Fortuna's piece. "But it's great. Anytime a coach believes in you...it's a pretty good feeling."
The Huskies have now won 21 consecutive conference games and 22 consecutive games in the regular season. Lynch led them to last year's Orange Bowl against Florida State, eventually losing in what many people wrongly remember as a rout because of the final score, 31-10.
The part people don't mention: That was a seven-point game after three quarters.
NIU may have petered out at the end against Florida State last year, but it proved it could at least hang around with one of the nation's best teams. Currently, if it stays undefeated, it is locked in a battle with Fresno State for the right to (potentially) return to a BCS bowl.
If that is how things play out, it would almost seem criminal not to invite Lynch to New York for the Heisman presentation. His chances of winning might be slim, but he at least deserves to be treated as a legitimate candidate.
Here are just some of the numbers that back that up:
|Total Offensive Yards||3,489||6th|
|Points Responsible For||192||3rd|
Source: ESPN Stats & Info/cfbstats.com
Lynch finished seventh in Heisman voting last season, so it's not like he's completely off voters' radar. In order to actually win the award, however, he might need to do even more than he's done.
According to Chris Huston of Heisman Pundit, "Lynch...would have to combine for 8,000 yards of total offense and 77 total touchdowns to take home the trophy." Even after Wednesday's monster game, those numbers are inconceivable.
But Lynch is still the B/R Heisman Performer of the Week, because he played himself squarely onto the ballot and could very well now find himself in New York.
He'll have another important showcase—this one on the road—against Toledo during this week's edition of #MACtion.