YPSILANTI, Mich. – Northern Illinois football coach Jerry Kill wanted to test backup quarterback Jordan Lynch’s arm. But the redshirt freshman was so successful on the ground in mop-up duty during Friday’s 71-3 rout of Eastern Michigan that Kill only allowed Lynch one pass attempt.
After the Huskies (10-2, 8-0 Mid-American Conference) took a 37-3 halftime lead, Lynch started the second half in place of starter Chandler Harnish and ran for touchdowns of 81 and 61 yards – both coming on the opening play of NIU drives – to quickly build NIU’s lead to 51-3.
“I had great blocks,” said Lynch, who ran for a 90-yard touchdown against Buffalo on Oct. 16. “It was pretty wide open. I’m pretty sure anybody could have ran it.”
In an attempt to run out the clock and end the Eagles’ misery, Kill called just one pass play the remainder of the game – a one-yard completion from Lynch to Jasmin Hopkins.
“He’s a special player,” Kill said. “The thing is we wanted to throw the ball with him but then we didn’t have the situation where it wasn’t the right thing to do to throw the ball.”
Junior DeMarcus Grady replaced Lynch midway through the third quarter and torched the hapless EMU (2-10, 2-6 MAC) defense. In his first game on the field since the Oct. 9 tilt against Temple, the Huskies’ Week 1 starter received two carries and rushed for touchdowns of 61 and 30 yards.
“I was also happy for DeMarcus Grady,” Kill said. “He’s gone through a lot and to come back to Michigan and score two touchdowns is great.”
Stark stadium: The official recorded attendance Friday’s MAC matchup at Rynearson Stadium was 5,147. The actual number was in the hundreds.
But for the second straight week, NIU ignored a meager crowd – attendance was 5,524 at Ball State on Nov. 20 – and found its own stimulation.
“It’s easy to get hyped for Toledo where you have 20,000 people in the stands and you’re feeding off the energy of the crowd,” right tackle Keith Otis said. “But when you have less than a thousand people in the stands and you’re still able to do it, that says something.”
Added Kill: “They came out of here with a lot of energy and a lot of juice and played very hard.”
Dandy defense: The offense received most of the headlines but the NIU defense had one of its best efforts of the season as well, holding EMU to 160 total yards, a season-best for the Huskies, on 64 plays. NIU also had 10 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries (one each by Tracy Wilson and Sean Program).
“I think that’s as fast as I’ve seen our defense play all year,” Kill said. “We just played with a lot more speed today than I’ve seen all year.”
One area the Huskies could’ve improved against EMU?
“Kick the ball better,” Kill said. “That’s all I’m going to say. We need to kick the ball better.”
NIU kicker Michael Cklamovski missed two extra points and a 42-yard field goal attempt on a cold, blustery day. He’s now 48 of 53 on the season for extra points and 15-for-25 for field goals. Backup kicker Matt Sims, who made his only extra point attempt on Friday, is 4-for-6 for extra points and 2-for-3 for field goals this season.