It’s been a bittersweet weekend respite for NIU football fans.
The Huskies captured their second straight MAC Championship title on Friday night with their overtime victory over Kent State. Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch broke Denard Robinson’s national quarterback rushing title and captured the team’s MVP award, although I think junior tailback Akeem Daniels was probably more deserving.
The bitterness came just one day after the euphoria, as now former head coach Dave Doeren announced his commitment to North Carolina State football, abandoning his reign over a program he led to a 23-4 record the last two years.
This is an entirely different story, however, so I will focus on the game aspect.
While Lynch was the focal point of the offense in every game, especially through his running game, Doeren may have found more success using him a bit more sparingly in this game. Lynch ran the ball a season-high 36 times, six more rushes than his previous high of 30 against Toledo, but the situation was much different.
Lynch was not 100 percent in this game. He was tackled harder and more often than I had ever seen in any previous game. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Lynch looked nothing like himself, getting up slow after tackles, appearing to keep his arm by his side, and even seemingly taking a sack for lack of mobility. Lynch was also sacked four times, the most in a game this season. Credit has to be given to Kent State for this and their scheming, but Lynch’s elusive maneuvering was not up to par late in the game.
Lynch rushed for only 60 yards after the last drive of the third quarter, which featured a 44-yard run by Lynch.
Daniels, on the other hand, accounted for 133 yards from that point on, 43 of those coming on a dump pass and run. If you do not want to count that, he still rushed for 90 yards on just one more attempt than Lynch.
Daniels rushed for 195 yards and took the load off of Lynch at the most important time of the game. Lynch was handed the ball in the “glory time” to score the ball. I’m not insinuating anything bad about Lynch--the guy has all but single-handedly won every game this season--but he’s not the hero. He scored the points, but in many of these late situations, he was Shawn Bradley simply dunking the ball off the creative play of Steve Nash.
To his credit, Lynch toughed it out. He took a beating in this game, probably the worst of the season, and he kept coming back out for every snap. The emergence of Daniels could not have come at a better time and has surely earned starter’s reps for next season’s squad.
I think Lynch is OK with that.