Would-be tacklers have had a hell of a time hanging on to NIU quarterback… (Getty Images )
If a player from Northern Illinois was going to receive any kind of Heisman Trophy consideration, he'd have to be video-game good.
I'm talking Bo Jackson in "Tecmo Bowl" good, Jeremy Roenick in "NHL '94" good, the kind of player who repels defenders like a raincoat in a thunderstorm and turns the scoreboard into his own personal slot machine.
One guy has.
This season, Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch has been that good. He'll make his final case to Heisman voters and the general public Friday, when NIU takes on Bowling Green for the MAC championship.
And while that comparison may be blasphemy to anyone who takes video games seriously, all you've gotta do is watch the highlights of Lynch's last game, on Nov. 26 against Western Michigan, to know they're warranted.
Multiple times in said game, Lynch dropped back to pass, surrounded by defenders, unable to find anyone open. Amid the chaos, he found an escape route, running through a wall of defenders and making tacklers miss en route to touchdown runs of 29, 36 and 37 yards.
It looked like … well, it looked like something that wasn't supposed to happen, about as unlikely of an ending as running a 5k on the Kennedy in the middle lanes and emerging unscathed.
Tecmo Bo, meet Tecmo Jo.
It's not the first time he's made things happen with his feet this season. The Mount Carmel product has two of the nation's five 300-yard rushing games this season, setting a single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback both times. Passing? Yeah, he's not bad at that either, throwing for 22 touchdowns against five interceptions.
He's only the fifth quarterback in the 20-20 club as well, having passed and rushed for 20 touchdowns this season.
Skeptics who have claimed all along that Northern Illinois' less-than-rigorous regular-season schedule disqualilfies him are turning into believers—but maybe that's because they're just now tuning in.
Surveys by both ESPN and USA Today show Lynch ranks second among possible Heisman candidates behind only Florida State's explosive Jameis Winston, and ahead of defending Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
It's been 80 years since a school in the Chicago area produced a Heisman winner—the first, actually, was Jay Berwanger from the University of Chicago.
A stellar showing Friday by Lynch could make him the second. Sure, it's a long shot on par with an 80-degree day in Chicago in January, but it's the best one there's been in nearly a century.
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.
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