Scrolling Headlines:

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch provides unique challenge for UMass football

Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar remembers all too well what Jordan Lynch did to his team last season.

The Northern Illinois quarterback passed for 191 yards, rushed for 157 yards and scored three touchdowns in less than three quarters of play as the Huskies handed the Minutemen their worst loss of their first Football Bowl Subdivision season, 63-0, on Nov. 3 in DeKalb, Ill.

MCT

This was quite the low point for the UMass defense in 2012, and it further cemented Lynch as a Heisman Trophy candidate as he led the Huskies to the Mid-American Conference championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl.

“The thing I remember the most is when he ran by me and I thought, ’Gosh, how thick he is,‘” Molnar said. “Thick calves, thick legs, thick upper body, arms, the whole thing. He looks like a fullback. Tim Tebow-type physique on him, maybe not quite as tall, but certainly that same build.”

As a junior last season, Lynch became the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,500 yards and pass for 3,000 yards, and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down through his first eight games as a senior.

On Oct. 19, he set the single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 316 yards on the ground in a 38-17 win at Central Michigan. Just a week later, he threw four passing touchdowns, rushed for another and caught a touchdown in a 59-20 rout of Eastern Michigan.

His success has translated into team success, as the undefeated Huskies are currently No. 17 in the Bowl Championship Subdivision standings and appear to be on their way to another conference championship and major bowl bid.

“He’s just better,” Molnar said. “They have a better passing game this year because he’s more mature.”

NIU runs most of its offense out of the read-option with Lynch’s dual-threat ability, making him the center of attention. This will force the Minutemen to honor his ability to run as well as pass the ball, making them aware of his presence at all three levels.

“Everyone just has to read their own keys,” safety Joe Colton said. “Corners read the receivers, safeties read the tackle box, linemen need to read linemen, outside linebackers read the backs. Everybody just do their job and read their keys.”

Molnar said that the most important thing is “to stay disciplined with your eyes” to predict what Lynch is going to do with the ball. He also said that each player has to stay in their own gaps.

Defending the read-option often requires a slower read by outside linebackers at the line of scrimmage. But with Lynch’s size and speed, the UMass defense can’t afford to play too slow.

“They always say, ‘Play fast, but don’t play in a hurry,’” said linebacker Ed Saint-Vil. “Whatever you’re doing, you want to play the game at full speed because the game is moving fast. And the moment you start trying to overthink things, that’s when the game is moving way too fast and the guy is running right by you.

“So you still want to play fast, but you want to make sure you know what you’re doing first. You can’t just run somewhere just to run somewhere.”

When asked about what it will take to slow Lynch down in the read-option, Saint-Vil said, “If I knew, I’d be a defensive coordinator.”

This isn’t UMass’ first crack at a quarterback with running abilities this season. The last time it confronted a similar threat, the team came against Kansas State on Sept. 14 when the quarterback tandem of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams combined for 155 rushing yards and three touchdowns – two from Waters through the air and one from Sams on the ground – in a 37-7 win over the Minutemen.

Lynch, however, combines both facets into one player and creates a more difficult offense to defend than UMass has seen all season.

“Northern Illinois’ offense is really unique,” Molnar said. “It’s the only team that we’ll face that’s like that.”

Nick Canelas can be reached at ncanelas@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.

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