To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.
DEKALB -- Several campus buildings were still bathed in celebratory orange lights on Friday even as Northern Illinois University shut down for a holiday break.
But on the Huskie Stadium turf, quarterback Jordan Lynch and his teammates were too busy to notice as preparation continued for next month's Orange Bowl showdown with Florida State.
"It's starting to sink in (and) practices have been going good," said Lynch, the record-setting setting junior quarterback who's guided Northern Illinois to a 12-1 record.
“(But) it’s been kind of crazy since that one eventful weekend -- winning the MAC championship, losing Coach (Dave) Doeren, having Coach (Rod) Carey step in and then getting the Orange Bowl pick," he said.
Attention on Lynch and the Huskies continues to rise since they beat Kent State in double overtime for the MAC title and then crashed the elite Bowl Championship Series party to earn a major berth.
And while notice for the program and university is welcome, Lynch and the Huskies aren’t changing their approach while preparing for the Seminoles.
“Florida State looks fast and physical on defense, from what I’ve been seeing (and) they pride themselves on turnovers,” he said. “This will be the best defense we’ve played all year.
“We’ll make a few wrinkles here and there on offense, but we’re going to do what got us here and stick to what we do.”
Lynch has been a potent threat as both a passer and runner this season. He leads the nation in rushing (1,771 yards), total offensive yards gained (4,733) and is tied with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for second nationally for points responsible (258).
His rushing total is the most ever for an FBS quarterback, topping the mark of 1,702 set by Michigan’s Denard Robinson in 2010.
Seventh in Heisman Trophy voting this month, Lynch was the only FBS quarterback this season to pass for 150 yards and run for 150 on four separate occasions. Other top quarterbacks like Manziel, Robinson and three others did it just once this year.
“He’s truly one of the best players in the country,” Toledo coach Matt Campbell said after the Huskies beat the Rockets 31-24 on Nov. 14 to clinch the MAC West crown. “He’s been the essence of consistency...His ability to run the football with such power, yet throw the ball with great consistency and (also) have the ability to sustain that success, a lot of credit has to go to him.”
Lynch spent several years as a backup to former Huskie Chandler Harnish -- another quarterback proficient as a passer and runner -- and is quick to credit Harnish as a mentor.
“He was always there, he was a big brother always there helping me out,” Lynch said. “I was his understudy for three years and anytime I had questions he was there to help me.”
While the recent ride has been heady for the first-year Huskie starter, there was no certainty he’d have a major college chance despite playing for the legendary Chicago-Mt. Carmel program.
As a Caravan senior, he passed for 1,221 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 848 yards in Mt. Carmel’s triple option attack. He also earned the Lawless Award as the Catholic League’s top player.
But colleges didn’t show a lot of interest. Those that did looked more at Lynch’s athletic skills than as a quarterback.
“The only school that gave me a chance at quarterback was Northern,” Lynch said. “It worked out, I guess.”
Caravan coach Frank Lenti told then-NIU coach Jerry Kill he was confident Lynch would make a mark.
"When (Kill) asked me about him, I said 'Coach, I can promise you one thing. No one in your program will ever outwork Jordan Lynch,'" Lenti said. "When he steps out on the field, the leadership level rises dramatically."
But to Carey, who will juggle head coach and offensive coordinator duties for the Orange Bowl, leadership is just one of Lynch's qualities.
"He's brought a lot, to summarize is hard," he said. "He a good leader, he's a good person, he's a good teammate. On top of all of that, he's a good player. We wouldn't be talking about none of that if he wasn't.
"But the best thing out of all those is that he's a good person. Guys like to be around him."
Among them is running back Akeem Daniels.
“He’s an amazing person,” Daniels said. “He’s a freak of nature as everyone can tell. He takes me back to my Pop Warner day -- a quarterback back doing things that are unbelievable -- and I just feed off that.”
The Huskies were originally set to train at the indoor DeKalb Recreation Center. But skies were clear and temperatures hovered in the mid-40s as Carey opted to switch outdoors for a 90-minute session.
With rain in the forecast for Saturday, Northern Illinois will likely be back indoors. The Huskies are scheduled to train daily through next Thursday, break for Christmas and then reconvene Dec. 26 for an early morning trip to Florida.