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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 11/21/2013

SPORTS COMMENTARY

NIU’s Lynch deserving of Heisman talk

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

There was a moment of silence at the Glass Bowl Wednesday night for Frank Lauterbur, the legendary Toledo football coach who died just a couple hours before kickoff.

He was sad, I’m sure, that his favorite team didn’t win despite an inspired first-half defensive effort.

At least he had a good seat to watch a tough-guy player he would have loved, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.

Lynch was absolutely average for one half. Then he was every bit as good as advertised, running for two touchdowns in the third quarter and capping a 15-play, 99-yard drive early in the fourth quarter with another run to turn a 10-7 halftime deficit into a 35-17 NIU win, its fifth in six years against Toledo.

Lynch added 363 yards of total offense to the 3,489 yards – 1,273 rushing and 2,216 passing – he brought into the game. How does that stack up with some other undefeated quarterbacks?

We can’t compare him heads-up to Braxton Miller because the Ohio State quarterback missed a couple games because of injury. But Miller and backup Kenny Guiton, put together, have 3,120 total yards.

Then there is A.J. McCarron of No. 1 Alabama. He’s not much of a runner, so let’s combine his passing yards and star back T.J. Yeldon’s rushing yards. The total is 3,250.

One guy who doesn’t take a backseat to Lynch is Johnny Manziel, the quarterback from Texas A&M who may repeat as the Heisman winner. His total offense figure thus far is 3,924. On the flip side, his team’s record doesn’t end in a zero.

Northern Illinois brought a 10-0 record to the Glass Bowl after Lynch had a monster night last week against Ball State in the first of the Huskies’ back-to-back MAC West title showdowns.

Afterwards, NIU coach Rod Carey said, “If Jordan isn’t in the competition for the Heisman, I don’t know what people were watching … they obviously were asleep.”

Asleep or awake, a lot of the Heisman voters will nonetheless remain skeptical. And a good number will never “lower” themselves to cast a first-place vote for a non-BCS player, regardless of his eye-popping numbers.

During the Ball State-NIU telecast, an analyst referred to Northern Illinois as the Boise State of the Midwest. It’s an interesting, albeit a too-early comparison. Since it was made, though, let’s make another one. Boise once had a quarterback named Kellen Moore who was 50-3 as a starter and directed wins over Oregon, Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Georgia and TCU, to name a few.

The highest Moore ever finished in the Heisman voting was fourth and that was while playing for a team that had proved itself legitimate on the national stage.

NIU has not.

“We get disrespected all over the place,” Lynch said last week. “All we do is do our job and win games. We shouldn’t be punished for that.”

But the Huskies’ opponents this season are a combined 48-57 and that includes 16-6 chipped in by Ball State and Toledo. Boise proved itself on the big stage and given the same chance a year ago as a BCS buster in the Orange Bowl, Lynch had by far his worst game and the credibility he and the Huskies sought was denied.

So he won’t win the Heisman, but he surely deserves to be in the discussion and at the award ceremony in New York City.

After the last two years, how could anyone from Toledo begrudge him that?

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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