Northern Illinois will have more than one thing to worry about when it closes its regular season Friday afternoon at Eastern Michigan.
The Eagles play two quarterbacks, meaning NIU must game plan for both.
“It makes it a little difficult, but we already have our game plan in for both of them,” sophomore linebacker Jamaal Bass said. “One of them is primarily a runner and the other one is primarily a passer. We have different schemes for both of them.”
Tyler Benz, a sophomore from Park Ridge, is the passer. Senior Alex Gillett is the runner for Eastern Michigan (2-9, 1-6 MAC). Benz threw for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week’s 29-23 upset of Western Michigan.
“Gillett plays quarterback some and when he is not a quarterback he is playing receiver,” said Huskies coach Dave Doeren. “When he is a quarterback the other quarterback is lined up at receiver also, so they are both in the game most of the time.
“Gillett was their guy when the season started and had some problems in the throwing game so Benz has kind of taken over from that standpoint, but at the same time Gillett is a dynamic runner. You can see them using both of the quarterbacks’ strengths within the game.”
If the game (noon, ESPN3.com/ WSCR 670-AM) is close in the second half, it’s to NIU’s advantage. The 24th-ranked Huskies (10-1, 7-0) have outscored the opposition 220-93 in the second half, including 109-51 in the fourth quarter.
“That says a lot, not just about how we finish, but how we adjust at halftime,” Doeren said. “That is a tribute to our coaches for understanding the adjustments that need to be made. You see something hurt us and that issue is erased.”
Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch is looking to build on what he did against Toledo when he ran for 162 yards and threw for 407 in Northern’s 31-24 win. He is the first quarterback in FBS history to throw for more than 400 yards and run for more than 150 in a game.
Eastern Michigan, a 20-point underdog today, got a glimpse of what Lynch can do during a 71-3 home loss to NIU in 2010, when the then-freshman converted 2 carries into 142 yards and 2 touchdowns in relief of starter Chandler Harnish.
Lynch has more than filled the void left by Harnish’s graduation, throwing for 2,582 yards with 22 TDs and 4 interceptions while rushing for 1,504 yards and 16 scores.
The junior joins Michigan’s heralded Denard Robinson as the only quarterbacks ever to surpass 1,500 yards rushing and 2,500 passing. He needs 199 yards to break Robinson’s FBS single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback, which was set in 2010.
“I think he has shown now that he is more than just a runner,” Doeren said.
An 11th straight win would send NIU into next week’s Mid-American Conference title game against Kent State on the biggest of rolls.
“We’re excited to go back (to the championship) and we can’t wait,” said Lynch. “But we have one more game. We’re going to go up there and beat Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.