Jordan Lynch runs all over the UMass defense

By Cameron McDonough

FOXBORO – Jordan Lynch’s Saturday started with a 4-yard rush, but it would only get better.

And better.

And better.

MCT

The No. 17 Northern Illinois (9-0, 5-0 Mid-American Conference) quarterback torched the Massachusetts (1-8, 1-4 MAC) football team’s run defense for three touchdowns and 88 yards on the ground, and that was only in the first quarter.

So just how good of a first quarter is that? This was the first time a quarterback has rushed for three touchdowns in the first quarter since Jared Zabranski did it for Boise State against Idaho in 2004.

And while Lynch didn’t have quite as good of a day on the ground last week –one rushing touchdown – this wasn’t something that was new for Huskies coach Rod Carey.

“He had three touchdown in the quarter,” Carey said. “For him running for three a game, yeah I think last week he had something like that. I think I’ve seen it before. I think that’s a product of how he’s running the offense and how everyone’s blocking. I think one of his it was a called pass and he scrambled. So I think that goes into his decision making.

“So, no, I’ve been pleased with that.”

Lynch finished the day with over 100 yards through both the air and on the ground. He ran for 119 yards and four touchdowns while passing for 160 yards on 10-of-13 attempts and one touchdown in NIU’s 63-19 win at Gillette Stadium.

Yes, that’s five total touchdowns and 279 total yards in only 34 minutes, 39 seconds of play. The Heisman Trophy candidate’s four rushing touchdowns are a career best, as Lynch has now compiled 12 touchdowns and 1,191 yards on the ground through nine games. That’s not to mention his 19 passing touchdowns on top of that, too.

If Lynch makes it to New York for the Heisman presentation, one of the touchdowns that might be on his highlight reel was his second on the day. The Huskies had the ball at the 25-yard line on second and 2. Lynch took the ball right up the gut and veered to his left where there was a seemingly wide-open lane. But UMass safety Joe Colton had a chance to bring down Lynch, which proved to be a tall task as he made him miss with his elusive legs. Lynch then ran it down the sideline and with a little help from a push from Justin Anderson, he leaped for the pylon and the score.

The fourth rushing touchdown was also an impressive individual effort for Lynch, as he scrambled to his left, eluded a possible arm tackle by Brandon Potvin and then after a few more nifty moves, he snuck into the left end of the end zone. After this 11-yard touchdown with 10:21 left in the third quarter, Lynch’s day was done.

On his other two rushing touchdowns, the UMass defense parted like the Red Sea, allowing Lynch a free stroll into the end zone for a 6-yard and a 19-yard strike in the first frame.

The defense was especially absent around Lynch on his 19-yard score. He originally stepped back in the pocket and was looking to throw, unlike his first two touchdowns, which were designed runs. But there was no one open, so he took advantage of what the defense gave him.

“Offensive line did a good job, they did a good job all day getting to the second and third level,” he said. “The pass route kind of broke down. Yeah, I just saw a hole up the middle and just kind of took advantage of it.”

But the position next to Lynch’s name does say quarterback, and he proved that he is much more than just a running quarterback on Saturday. He showed off his arm strength on a 66-yard touchdown to Juwan Brescacin in the second quarter, which was his longest completion of the season. He now has thrown a touchdown in 22-straight games.

“I go back there and I’m a quarterback first,” Lynch said. “I don’t look to run first. I’m a quarterback first. I go back there and drop and I don’t try to force any balls. I try not to turn the ball over. I feel like if I’m gonna force something, I’d rather just use my legs and find a hole.”

Whether it’s been with his legs or with his arms, Lynch is having quite the season and has his team in line for a possible repeat to a BCS bowl after a trip to the Orange Bowl last year. That’s not to mention a possible individual trip to the Heisman Trophy presentation in December.

And after trying to defend him all day, UMass coach Charley Molnar believes Lynch and his team should be in the “conversation” for both the Heisman and the BCS.

“I would say this: Let’s play the rest of the games,” he said, “but he certainly should be in the conversation and that football team should be in the conversation.”

Cameron McDonough can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.