Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Northern Illinois races past UMass 63-19

FOXBORO At Fenway Park on Saturday, the home team partied like it never had before.

Thirty miles south, at Gillette Stadium, the home team lost like it had many times before.

Robert Rigo/Collegian

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch scored three first-quarter rushing touchdowns and the 17th-ranked Huskies never looked back in a 63-19 thumping of the Massachusetts football team on Saturday afternoon in front of 10,061.

The Huskies (9-0, 5-0 Mid-American Conference) trailed just once as Lynch, considered by some to be a Heisman Trophy candidate, ran all over the UMass defense. He finished with 124 yards and four rushing touchdowns on 17 carries and added 160 yards passing and a touchdown through the air for good measure as he continued to cement himself as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation.

“He is (the best player we’ve played against this year),” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “He makes it all go. There’s not been another player that the whole offense is so dependent on. … He really makes it go, because all your focus is on Jordan, it has to be. You could see him in one-on-ones, he killed us today.”

Trailing 3-0 early, Lynch immediately went to work, scoring on a rush from 6 yards out to give his team a 7-3 lead with 8:03 to go in the first quarter. He scored again on his team’s next drive, bowling over UMass safety Joe Colton and scampering down the left sideline as he dove for the pylon to give the Huskies a 14-6 lead.

He wasn’t done, either, as he finished NIU’s next drive with a 19-yard burst up the middle to the end zone to give his team a 21-6 first-quarter advantage. With the score, he became the first quarterback to get three rushing touchdowns in the first quarter of a game since Boise State’s Jared Zabransky did it in 2004.

The Minutemen (1-8, 1-4 MAC) didn’t have much to feel happy about Saturday, but one positive was the play of Lorenzo Woodley. The freshman running back earned his first career start and ran with it – literally – as he finished with 163 yards on 38 carries and a 1-yard touchdown that cut UMass’ deficit to 28-13 in the second quarter.

The scoring drive – a methodical 9-play, 83-yard drive – seemed to give the Minutemen a dose of new life after quarterback Mike Wegzyn – starting for the injured A.J. Doyle – threw an interception deep in his own territory on the previous series that led to an easy NIU touchdown.

But the Huskies immediately answered the Minutemen, as Lynch connected with wide receiver Juwan Brescacin for a 66-yard touchdown strike. It gave NIU a commanding 35-13 lead with 9:33 left in the half and deflated UMass, which couldn’t find a rhythm the rest of the way.

Despite the result, Molnar was pleased with the progress of his team, which he said was “humiliated” in a 63-0 loss to the Huskies last season.

“I feel like we’ve made some strides. I feel like we’ve closed some ground on them,” Molnar said. “We have a long way to go, but I believe this, that (NIU is) at their apex, they’re at their crescendo, and we’re working to get there. We’re not there yet, so we’ve made some ground and our best days are ahead of us.”

The Minutemen will also feel good about their kicking game going forward after Saturday. A week after Blake Lucas missed a 22-yard field goal and then wasn’t given a chance to kick the potential game-tying extra point in a 31-30 loss to Western Michigan, Brendon Levengood was given a chance to start and made the most of his opportunity.

Levengood was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals – all of them from 40 yards or longer, including a career-high 46-yarder. It was the first time a UMass kicker has made four field goals in a game since George Papoutsidis did it on Sept. 1, 1984.

“Man, oh man, did he step up today,” Molnar said of Levengood. “Once he made that first kick, you could see the confidence in his eye, confidence in the football team, and I feel really good today coming off the field today about our kicker.”

UMass is off next week before it comes back to Gillette Stadium on Nov. 16 for its home finale against Akron.

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.

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