Can NIUs Lynch get up to speed in Heisman race?
For NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, the numbers don't lie.
But whether those gaudy numbers, which include leading the nation in total offense with 3,169 yards, can get him in the Heisman Trophy mix remains to be seen.
"I think to be the Heisman winner, you have to do everything. You've got to be almost perfect," said NIU coach Dave Doeren. "All he needs to do is continue to do what he's doing, win games, be productive, and not make mistakes.
"He's doing everything we're asking him. He's getting better as the year goes on. I mean the things that he struggled with early, he's getting better at. He's making better choices. Instead of throwing into tight coverage, he scrambles for a first down. He'll throw it away in the red zone, or he'll scramble and run a guy over on the goal line."
Last year it was NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish getting mentioned in the Heisman Trophy talk, but he never made it to New York.
In past seasons, several NIU stars have received Heisman consideration, but only running back LeShon Johnson cracked the Top 10 with a sixth-place finish in 1993. Tailback Garrett Wolfe was 11th in 2006, and NFL star Michael Turner finished 18th in 2003 despite an aggressive "Turner the Burner" campaign.
Now it's Lynch, who is second in the country in rushing with 1,185 yards and has run for 15 touchdowns. He has thrown for 17 TDs, including 4 in last weekend's 48-34 win at Western Michigan.
"To win that award, you've got to play that way," Doeren said. "I think he's deserving of the conversations, and he's got three more weeks of the regular season. I think he's obviously kind of on the fringe. If he can do what he needs to do this week, the next week, and the week after, can he get there? He deserves to be if he does what he has to do.
"I always feel that the guys that are in play their best football in November. You can lose that award pretty easy in the last month."
After two weeks on the road, the Huskies put their eight-game winning streak on the line Saturday against winless U-Mass in DeKalb.
"I'm obviously excited to end the string of road games that we've had and to come home," Doeren said. "I'm really happy about the way we were able to hang in there."
For the Huskies, it all starts with Lynch.
"In the five years I have been here, I've never seen a quarterback finish like he does," said tight end Jason Schepler. "He almost does a better job than some running backs I see in college. You've always got to keep playing when every you see him with the ball because you never know when he is going to go down so you got to keep blocking."
NIU has never had a Heisman Trophy finalist. And the odds aren't in Lynch's favor now, considering the Huskies aren't ranked, have one loss and their strength of schedule is ranked 134th in the nation by Sagarin.
If there is a favorite right now it would be Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. ESPN's experts poll has Klein easily leading four challengers: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. Lynch hasn't cracked their Top 12 list.
"I think that award, some years, it's pretty locked in where it's going," Doeren said. "Other years, there are defensive guys on the list, which is rare.
"Last year, I think everyone knew that Andrew Luck and RGIII (Robert Griffin III) were going to be there, and who was going to be with them. This year, it's not that way. There are more guys involved in the conversation. Like I said, the last month for about 10 guys is going to be really important, if they want to be in New York. We'll see where it goes for us."
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