KENT: Kent State has used big plays on offense and special teams from Dri Archer to stun opponents this season. But the Golden Flashes will have to count on their always-stellar defense in Friday’s Mid-American Conference Championship Game at Detroit’s Ford Field.
That’s because even with Archer’s ability to impact the game as a runner, receiver and return man, the outcome of the game could rest in the hands of Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.
Lynch, the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, is being touted by his school as a Heisman candidate with a “Vote Lynch for Heisman” page on its website.
The Flashes’ defense has forced 35 turnovers and is coming off a season-high eight-sack effort in a win over Ohio, so something has to give.
Lynch, a 6-foot, 216-pound redshirt junior, leads the nation in total yards with 4,086 and has accounted for 39 touchdowns. He ranks third in the nation with 134.2 rushing yards per game.
“I just got finished watching the quarterback run around,” Kent State coach Darrell Hazell said Monday after watching film. “He’s quite a player who creates all kinds of plays all over the field.”
A first-year starter, Lynch is the only quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 100 or more yards in 10 consecutive games. He is also the only Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback to have passed for 150 yards and run for 150 yards in three games this season.
“When you play a guy like that who pulls it down and scrambles around, you have to stay in coverage,” Hazell said. “If you’re in man coverage, you have to stay in coverage and have tremendous eye discipline when you’re playing against a guy who can create so much. So we have to be extremely disciplined in the back end with our eyes.”
In 12 regular-season games, Lynch has completed 203 passes for 2,750 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for another 1,611 yards and 16 more touchdowns.
Lynch knows his chances of winning the Heisman are slim, but he says he is honored by the school’s campaign.
“It is definitely surreal,” Lynch told NWI.com of being touted as a Heisman candidate. “I have always set high expectations for myself. I know it is tough because we are not a BCS [Bowl Championship Series] school, but deep down I feel like I can play with anyone and any team.”
Hazell is impressed.
“He’s different than every guy we’ve played this year,” Hazell said. “He’s so quick and he wants to run the ball. He absolutely wants to run it. Whereas a lot of quarterbacks don’t want to run, he wants to run the ball. And he’s tough. He hits between the A and B gap hard.”
Still, Hazell wouldn’t go as far to consider Lynch “the best” quarterback in the league, at least not in the traditional sense.
“I think he’s probably the most complete quarterback,” Hazell said. “There’s probably guys who throw it a lot better, but he can do both so well. And he’s smart — you can see how smart. He gets wrapped up by a guy and he throws the ball away. He doesn’t take an 8-yard loss. You can see his intelligence.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at https://ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.