Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting. On Tuesday at the Discover Orange Bowl, Lynch seemed quite similar to the bronze stiff-arm — too short, unable to throw, having trouble running.
The lynchpin of Northern Illinois’ offense, who ran or threw on 60.8 percent of the Huskies’ offensive plays during the regular season, shouldered even more of the load in the Orange Bowl. And that made it even more disastrous for Northern Illinois that, outside of a slice of the third quarter, Lynch had his worst game of the season.
The 62.9-percent passer during the regular season, who threw only five interceptions in 13 games, completed only 15 of 41 for 176 yards with an interception Tuesday. The Huskies leading rusher, averaging 136.2 yards per game and 6.5 yards per rush, had 44 yards on 23 carries. On the money down for quarterbacks, third down, Lynch led NIU to zero conversions on eight third downs in the first half as the Huskies fell behind 14-3 and five of 18 for the game.
Lynch’s best play might have been when he backed up out of a normal spread formation and pooch punted on a fourth-and-1 from the Huskies’ 43. The punt rolled dead on the Florida State 5.
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Even against a defense as swiftly omnipresent as the Seminoles, opportunities opened for Lynch to make a difference. Senior Martel Moore, the Huskies’ most productive and explosive wide receiver, flew open deep up the right side on the first play of Northern Illinois’ second possession. Lynch overthrew Moore.
Lynch got limited help from his receivers, as NIU suffered several drops. And on his throw for Moore on third-and-goal from the 8, somehow officials found no problem with FSU’s Xavier Rhodes muscling Moore out of bounds while the ball was in the air.
Suddenly, in the second half, Lynch started treating Florida State like Kent State. He hit running back Akeem Daniels in stride up the right sideline for 55 yards to the Florida State 37 on third-and-15. Following a 22-yard scramble for a first down to the Seminoles’ 11, Lynch found Moore cutting over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown.
That cut Florida State’s lead to 17-10. With Lynch and the offense finally finding a rhythm, the Huskies went with an onside kick and recovered it. Lynch conjured two more third-down conversions with a 2-yard run on third-and-1 and a scrambling throw through Rhodes’ waving hands to Tommylee Lewis for 13 yards.
But three plays later, on third-and-8 from the 23, Lynch turned back into the pumpkin of the first half. Scrambling to his right, he not only ran into pressure, but made a late throw up the sideline that Terrence Brooks intercepted and ran back to the 29.
Before Northern left DeKalb last week, Lynch told a Sporting News reporter that the Seminoles hadn’t “seen anything like our offense,” and,: “We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees — and then just keep pounding away.”
After a week of not responding publicly, several Seminoles defenders, especially linebacker Vince Williams, seeNIU med to take special delight with each crushing of Lynch.