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Korcek: NIU’s Lynch comparable with Texas A&M’s Manziel

Relevant observations, pertinent notes, questions, minutiae, and Huskie Trivial Pursuit from your local, retired sports information director:

Observation No. 1: What’s the best aspect of this 10-1 Northern Illinois football campaign so far? The third consecutive Huskie appearance in the Mid-American Conference Championship game Nov. 30? Not really. The Top 25 national rankings? Maybe. Watching a legitimate All-America and viable Heisman Trophy candidate? Warmer. The “props” on ESPN, etc.? Bingo. What do you expect from an ex-SID?

What can be more fun than reading or watching what media outside of DeKalb County say about my alma mater and its student-athletes. This institution deserves the positive national recognition – every column inch or sound byte – that coach Dave Doeren’s squad has generated this year and last.

Is 21-4 in that time frame good enough for you in New York City? What about the human engine who embodies the entire program? Is NIU junior quarterback Jordan Lynch for real, America? Some of the hard-core media types are starting to believe.

I loved the comment from ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski on No. 6. “Take a minute and go look at his season numbers. Wow,” “Woj” opined in his “BMOC” column this week. “In the win against Toledo, which extended NIU’s home winning streak to an FBS-best 21 games, Lynch threw for 407 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 162 yards. I don’t even drive my car that far.”

Classic, typical clever line, Gene.

Ditto for Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel, who wished America paid more attention to No. 6. “(Heisman) Voters really ought to take a look at the Johnny Football of the MAC – Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.”

Sorry, I beg to differ, Stew. You’ve got your metaphor reversed. Texas A&M freshman QB Johnny “Football” Manziel might be the Lynch of the Southeastern Conference – if you get my drift.

Observation No. 2: To me, the story peg for either Lynch or Manziel is pretty simple. Sometimes, the national media cannot see the forest for the trees. Since August, both student-athletes have emerged from ground zero to the national stage, producing incredible stats, and pushing their respective schools into the Top 25.

In the interim, Lynch and Manziel leapfrogged over the preseason media darlings such as USC QB Matt Barkley, South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, West Virginia QB Geno Smith, and others. That’s sad, but in life (and sports), things happen. Reward the best performers, the guys left standing.

Comparison No. 1: Curious about the Lynch vs. Manziel numbers through Week 12? Stats-wise, it’s pretty even in five NCAA QB-driven categories. At least in the view from in DeKalb.

What’s any QB’s primary job? Run the offense and put points on the board. Interesting that Lynch and Manziel are tied for No. 3 in NCAA “points responsible for” (awkward term, I know) at 20.7 per game or 228 total in 11 games). The Huskie Heisman hopeful ranks No. 3 in NCAA rushing yardage (1,504), No. 3 in total offense (371.5 ypg.), No. 10 in passing efficiency (159.15 rating) and No. 38 in passing yardage (2,582).

Manziel rates No. 2 in NCAA total offense (378.3 ypg.), No. 18 in passing yards (3,047), No. 21 in passing efficiency (155.13 rating), and No. 30 in rushing (1,114).

Factor in (1) Texas A&M’s stunning (and timely) upset victory over No. 1-ranked Alabama Nov. 10 on national TV, (2) the usual SEC / automatic qualifier media bias, and (3) the national media penchant or obsession with the next “phenom” or great nickname from a high-profile program. BCS or mid-major. Here we go again. Lynch and the Huskies deserve better.

Comparison No. 2: What a frantic, intense Northern Illinois third-quarter (337 yards total offense, sustained drives of 73, 99, 68, and 97 yards, plus 21 points in 15 minutes) that turned around the Toledo game last Wednesday. Anything in the Huskie memory bank to match such numbers? Two memorable games immediately come to mind.

In the ultimate Michael Turner vs. Ben Roethlisberger showdown, Northern Illinois tallied an NCAA-record 34 points during the fourth quarter of a 48-41 come-from-behind triumph at Miami (Ohio) in 2002. Both teams combined for 48 points in the final quarter as the Huskies rallied from a 27-7 deficit with 5:59 left in the third. Turner (222 yards and five TDs on 20 carries) burned the Redhawks for three TDs in 7:55 to tie the game. Roethlisberger put on his own one-man show (41-of-61 passes for 525 yards and four TDs).

Of course, the well-documented 73-18 NIU thrashing against No. 24 Fresno State in 1990 featured a school-record 532 yards total offense (459 rushing) and 50 points by the Huskies in the opening half.

History Lesson No. 1: Sometimes the Mid-American Conference deserves more credit than it receives from all of us. In this case, league parity is good (administrators and fans love it).

With the Northern Illinois-Kent State title game match-up in 2012, now 11 of the MAC’s current 12 full-time football programs have appeared in the championship game since 1997. Eastern Michigan is the exception.The most MAC title game appearances: Marshall (6), Toledo (5), NIU (4) and Miami (4).

History Lesson No. 2: Is Kent State a team of destiny in 2012? Hope not (at least on Nov. 30). But if you thought the gap between the Huskie MAC grid crowns (1983 to 2011 or 28 seasons) was something, what about KSU, who last won the MAC in 1972?

That 1972 Golden Flash team – known as the “James Gang” (for head coach Don James) – finished 6-5-1 and lost to Tampa in the Tangerine Bowl. Not only did the KSU roster feature future All-Pro LB Jack Lambert, but two future BCS head coaches (Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel).

One of the five K-State losses that year? You bet. Behind All-Century Team FB Mark Kellar (146 yards rushing), Northern Illinois prevailed, 28-7, at Huskie Stadium.

Coach Jerry Ippoliti’s squad rolled up 541 yards total offense, thanks to a then school-record 78 team rushes and 475 yards team rushing vs. the 1972 MAC champions for a benchmark victory in the school’s early University Division tenure.

History Lesson No. 3: There are Huskies wearing current Golden Flash colors. Second-year Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen, a Ph.D. candidate at NIU, not only worked as an athletic development assistant here (1990-91), but married a Huskie – former golfer Sharon Humphrey, who played for retired head coach Pam Tyska in 1988-91.

Concern No. 1: Hate to end on this note. But facts are facts. Anybody see this men’s basketball final score the other night? Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne 92, Judson 22. Yes, 22. Oh, boy.

• Mike Korcek is a former Northern Illinois University sports information director. His historical perspective on NIU athletics appears periodically in the Daily Chronicle.

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