After the graduation of four-year starter Chandler Harnish, many expected to see a significant drop off at quarterback for Northern Illinois. Harnish had just put up one of the best offensive seasons in MAC history. By the time the Huskies had won the 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl, Harnish was owner of 30 school records. That's a tough act for anyone to follow up, especially when the new guy has to do it behind an entirely rebuilt offensive line. Growing pains were expected, especially considering the incumbent quarterback had thrown a total of 26 passes in his first two seasons. But then Jordan Lynch did the unexpected: The first-year starter put together the greatest individual season the MAC, no, the country had ever seen.
That's not hyperbole either. Lynch was so good, he not only broke the record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season, but the only player to put up better numbers than him was a guy by the name of Jonny Manziel. You may have heard of him.
Here's a breakdown of just how good Lynch was in 2012:
- Rushed for 1,815 yards (4th most in the nation) and 19 touchdowns (tied for 10th).
- Led the entire NCAA in games with at least 100 rushing yards with 12.
- Threw for 3,138 yards (30th) and 25 touchdowns, good for 30th and 26th in the country, respectively.
- Tallied 4,953 yards of total offense (2nd in the nation).
- Became the only player in NCAA history to throw for at least 3,000 yards, and rush for at least 1,500 yards in a single season.
- Finished 7th in the Heisman voting.
- Led the Huskies to the BCS Orange Bowl.
Not a bad season for the 2 star recruit out of Chicago. Of course no one expected Lynch to have such success, especially after his week 1 performance. In the 2012 season opener, the junior struggled mightily against the Iowa Hawkeyes. He completed just 37 percent of his passes (6 of 16) for 54 yards that game, and despite finishing with 119 yards and a touchdown on the ground, made costly mistakes all game, including a third quarter fumble that led to an Iowa field goal. It was a sloppy game, which Lynch and the Huskies lost, 18-17.
But over the course of the next 12 games, Lynch evolved into one of the best players in the nation. Combining his freakish running abilities with a strong and incredibly accurate arm (he threw just six interceptions in 2012), Lynch was grabbing the attention of MAC defenses, and national media alike.
He led NIU to 12 straight wins, including a performance for the ages in mid-November against rival Toledo. That day Lynch put up 569 yards of total offense, along with three touchdowns. The victory sealed a second-consecutive MAC West title for NIU, and officially put Lynch on the map. Two weeks later in the MAC Championship game, he orchestrated a come-from-behind victory over Kent State in double-overtime. That night before a live national audience he combined for four total touchdowns, including the game-winning score.
Back for his senior season, suddenly the unknown weapon is garnering national media attention. Northern Illinois has launched a Heisman campaign for the stud senior. He's recently been named as one of the most intriguing quarterbacks to watch in the 2013 season, and is considered one of the early contenders for the 2013 Heisman Trophy.
Oh and he went from holding a clipboard, to holding down the No. 1 spot on our list of the Top 68 players in the MAC. Not a bad year indeed.