If it wasn’t for Jordan Lynch, Ball State’s Keith Wenning may be the Mid-American Conference quarterback known nationally.
Wenning would be the one racking up MAC West Offensive Player of the Week honors, and would most likely be the favorite for the Vern Smith Leadership Award, which will probably go to Northern Illinois’ senior quarterback for the second consecutive season.
Like Lynch, Wenning wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, but there are a lot of programs out there that wish they would have taken a chance on him.
According to Rivals, Ball State was Wenning’s only offer when he committed there in December of 2009 out of Coldwater, Ohio.
As a senior, he’s been on fire, throwing for 3,164 yards, a total which ranks fourth in the nation behind Oregon State’s Sean Mannion (3,540 yards), Fresno State’s Derek Carr (3,421), and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (3,313). Wenning has thrown 27 touchdowns, also the fourth-highest total in the nation behind the three aforementioned quarterbacks.
He’s also the only quarterback in the country to throw for 300 yards in eight games this season.
There’s a number of reasons Wenning was named a finalist for the Unitas Award (best senior QB) last week. Ball State head coach Pete Lembo said Wenning’s deep ball has gotten a lot better. He’s also got a great supporting cast, led by wide receiver Willie Snead, and he’s accurate, completing 62.9 percent of his passes.
“His footwork is tremendous. You throw the ball with your feet first and his feet are always in a good position,” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “He has really good chemistry with his wide receivers. I think all of them have been playing together now for three years. When we had them here two years ago at our place, they were just getting to know each other. Now they’re well-seasoned together.”
Of course, Lynch brings an element that Wenning doesn’t, and that’s the running game. Wenning has mobility, but Lynch is in a different class when it comes to running the ball, with 1,150 yards – the seventh-best mark in the country and tops for any QB.
Lynch isn’t a slouch throwing the ball either, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,871 yards and 19 touchdowns to only five interceptions (the same interception total as Wenning).
“He’s probably underrated as a passer. You get so geared up to stop the run game, the quarterback run game and all the misdirection, that they have some good opportunities to throw it on the perimeter whether it be screens or downfield throws,” Lembo said. “So, I think No. 1, he doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves in the passing game, and No. 2, their staff is very wise in terms of taking advantage of what the defense is giving them.
“When people are too overzealous of the run game and overloading the box you get some good matchups on the outside and obviously they’ve got very good skill on the outside.”
There is a bit of a different look to both quarterbacks. Wenning is more of your traditional pocket passer while Lynch can beat defenses with his legs just as easily.
But both quarterbacks put up a lot of yards, and points. Expect a high-powered, high-scoring game on Wednesday.
Completion percentage: Lynch 63.6, Wenning 62.9
Passing yards: Lynch 1,871, Wenning 3,164
Passing touchdowns: Lynch 19, Wenning 27
Interceptions: Lynch 5, Wenning 5
Passer efficiency: Lynch 144.9, Wenning 155.61
Rushing yards: Lynch 1,150, Wenning 36
Rushing touchdowns: Lynch 12, Wenning 4