NIU feeding off QB Lynch's success
Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren says the success of quarterback Jordan Lynch has on offense is also translating to his defense, which is dominating in the red zone this season.
It's Western Michigan's turn to find a way to stop NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch.
So far it's a task no team has been able to pull off.
Lynch, the junior from Mt. Carmel High School, ranks first in the nation in total yards with 2,759 and is second in rushing with 1,049 yards. He ran for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns and threw for 2 more scores in last week's 37-7 rout of Akron.
The Huskies (7-1, 4-0) play at Western Michigan (3-5, 1-3) on Saturday (11 a.m. ESPN3.com and WSCR 670-AM).
"I think any good team feeds off of their quarterback," said NIU coach Dave Doeren. "The way he carries himself, practices, plays, competes, he brings energy even to our defense. Our defense loves seeing him run or make a big throw. I know we play off each other on both sides of the football a lot."
Doeren is well aware of the number of hits Lynch is taking on a weekly basis when he runs 20 times per game.
"Any time your quarterback has 20 carries you are worried about it," Doeren said. "If we could lower that number some we would. Again, a lot of the hits aren't designed. He drops back (to) pass and then he scrambles for a 30-yard touchdown. I mean you can't say don't drop and pass.
"A lot of the runs we're handing off or throwing or running based on looks, so out of those 20 times he kept the ball maybe 10 of them we thought he would get it."
The Huskies have allowed only 1 touchdown and 10 points in the last nine quarters of football. They rank fifth in the nation in red zone defense.
"Our kids understand that area of the field and how the plays change," Doeren said. "We do a nice job, I think, of coaching that to our guys. We practice it everyday. That's something that some schools don't. The last three plays of every practice are in the red zone. It's something we believe in as a toughness part of how to finish."
Doeren credits good execution with the 10 points allowed in the last two games.
"I just think the execution has increased," Doeren said while also crediting special teams.
"We've done a nice job creating some longer fields for the opponent, and our offense does a nice job protecting the ball," he said. "We're not putting our defense in those positions."
The players are taking more and more pride in the red zone defense.
"Especially for the defensive line, it's a big point of pride and emphasis for us," said defensive end Jason Meehan. "When you get to the goal line it's not like, 'Oh, I'm tired.' Our backs are against the wall and you know everyone has the same mindset that you have. It's time to make a play and we have to do this. There is a lot of confidence when it goes there, a lot of swagger on our defense for those kinds of plays."
Added linebacker Michael Santacaterine: "We are a tough bunch of kids on defense. Any time a team is the red zone our goal is to at least hold them to a field goal and a turnover is even bigger."
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