|Lynch is kingpin of NIU offense|
|Written by By JACK CARLE, Sentinel Sports Editor|
|Friday, 06 December 2013 09:51|
There’s no question that Jordan Lynch is the engine that drives the Northern Illinois football team.
A Heisman Trophy candidate, Lynch has put together back-to-back outstanding seasons helping the Huskies go 24-2 overall in that span.
Northern Illinois, 12-0 this season, faces Bowling Green, 9-3, in the Mid-American Conference championship game Friday at Detroit’s Ford Field. Kickoff is at 8 p.m.
It’s the fourth straight year NIU has played in the MAC championship game. In the last four seasons, the Huskies went 31-1 in the MAC and is 46-8 overall. NIU is looking for its third straight MAC title on Friday.
In the 26 games over the last two years, Lynch has rushed for 3,590 yards and 39 touchdowns, and is 449-of-723 passing for 5,595 yards with 47 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
When asked earlier this week on how to stop Lynch, BG head coach Dave Clawson said: ‘‘If it’s that simple in a 30-second answer, people would have done it.
‘‘He’s an incredible talent. He’s an All-American tailback and an All-American quarterback all wrapped up into one player.’’
To limit Lynch’s impact on the game, the Falcons’ offense will need to control the time of possession while BG’s defense must be fundamentally sound and follow the game plan.
‘‘I think that if we just do our assignments, we do our job, and we can bring him down and tackle him. I think we’re going to be in good shape,’’ said BG senior linebacker Paul Swan. ‘‘That’s the challenge, getting to him and tackling him. He breaks a lot of tackles, he runs away from defenders.
‘‘We have got to tackle Jordan Lynch; just shut him down.’’
Clawson was quick to point out that Lynch is surrounded by some talented teammates, including a good offensive line.
Cameron Stingily has rushed for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns. Tommylee Lewis and Da’Ron Brown have combined for 116 receptions for 1,312 yards and 12 touchdowns.
‘‘It’s everything. It’s coaching, it’s players and then you have an elite talent in Jordan Lynch that takes them over the top,’’ Clawson said.
While NIU is the top offensive team in the MAC, Bowling Green has one of the best defenses in the nation.
‘‘They have played together a long time, and when you have that cohesion, they kind of know what the other guy is going to do,’’ NIU head coach Rod Carey said about the Falcons.
Defensively, NIU is in the middle of the pack in the MAC, allowing 411.4 yards per game, including 263.8 yards per game through the air.
Safety Jimmie Ward leads the NIU defense with 77 tackles, a MAC-best six interceptions, and eight pass breakups. He’s been invited to the Senior Bowl.
Linebackers Jamaal Bass and Boomer Mays, have 75 and 72 tackles, respectively.
Carey points to quarterback Matt Johnson as a key to BG’s offensive success.
‘‘They (BG) are getting really good quarterback play. Anytime you get an offense that is productive like they are, moving the ball, the quarterback is the reason because of his decision-making,’’ Carey said. ‘‘He’s playing really well. That’s the thing that concerns you, because they are already good in the run game, they are already good up front in the offensive line, and they have good wide receivers and tight ends.
‘‘Now they’ve got a quarterback that is making the right decision at the right time, that’s what’s the most concerning; they are well-rounded.’’
The Falcons will have to capitalize on their red zone opportunities, BG tight end Alex Bayer said.
‘‘We know that scoring just 14 or 21 points isn’t going to get the job done. When we get our opportunities in the red zone we’ve got to make the most of them, and that’s something that coach Clawson harps on ... We want to make sure we’re scoring touchdowns, not field goals if we want to win this game,’’ Bayer said.
For the season, the Falcons are 46-of-54 (85 percent) on red zone scoring opportunities, including 35 touchdowns.
On NIU’s special teams, Lewis and Paris Logan are the kickoff returners, and three different players have returned punts.
The Huskies’ Tyler Wedel is averaging 40.8 yards on 45 punts, with 14 punts landing inside the 20-yard line.
Mathew Sims is the NIU place-kicker, and he is 15-of-23 on field goals this season, including 3-of-9 on attempts of 40 yards or longer.
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