WEST POINT, N.Y. – Chandler Harnish had many moments in his Northern Illinois career where his team looked to him to come up big and win the game.
Take last year’s game-winning drive in NIU’s Mid-American Conference championship victory as one example. Or the late-season victory against Ball State. I’m not going to list all of his accomplishments, you get the point.
Harnish, the current Indianapolis Colt, also had a coming-out party. It was the 2008 season opener at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, his first start as a redshirt freshman. Nobody knew what to expect.
Harnish performed, throwing for 326 yards and two touchdowns, and it looked like he had led a game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, when he hit Nathan Palmer with a 52-yard touchdown pass, only to see the Gophers put together a game-winning drive of their own in the final seconds, notching a 31-27 win.
Although the record-setting QB, arguably the school’s greatest player at the position, had many accomplishments in his career, it’s hard to forget that game in the Twin Cities.
NIU’s current signal-caller, junior Jordan Lynch, who made his third career start in NIU’s 41-40 win Saturday at Army, should have a good number of appearances ahead of him. With the rest of 2012 and the 2013 season left, who knows what his lasting legacy as NIU’s quarterback will be.
What I am sure of, is that Saturday’s crazy win in the mountains of southeastern New York is Lynch’s own coming-out party.
Yes, he took some snaps last year and led a touchdown drive in the Godaddy.com Bowl. Sure, it’s tough to forget that 78-yard touchdown run against Iowa in Week 1. His first win probably won’t be remembered considering it was against the University of Tennessee-Martin.
No matter what Lynch does the rest of his career, fans should remember the victory Lynch’s Huskies pulled out Saturday in West Point.
Just look at the stats – 342 yards passing, four passing touchdowns, 125 yards rushing with another TD there.
Teams still can’t figure out NIU’s quarterback run play, when Lynch gets that blocker in front of him and lets loose.
Sure, he turned the ball over three times, fumbling twice and throwing a ball into double coverage that was picked off by Army’s Tyler Dickson. The fumble at the goal line should have been Lynch’s second rushing touchdown, not a fumble. For whatever reason, the officials botched the call even though it went to the booth for review.
And I know, nobody can win the game alone. Lynch’s offensive line blocked for him. Playmakers like wide receivers Martel Moore and Tommylee Lewis came up big. Moore had 134 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Lewis gained 79 yards on just two catches, and had a 21-yard touchdown run on a reverse.
But in the end, Lynch was the main reason the Huskies improved to 2-1. As the Huskies did so many times with Harnish, when the team needed a big play, it was Lynch that put on a show. With 8:48 left in the game, NIU got the ball down five points.
The Huskies needed a touchdown. Otherwise, the Black Knights could very well have scored again, and would have at least ate up a good chunk of the clock.
Lynch and the NIU offense had other ideas, taking the ball 73 yards for the game-winning score. On the touchdown pass to Moore, Lynch did what he had done so many times throughout he contest. He put the ball in a perfect spot for Moore, right on the outside shoulder where the defensive back had no shot.
When Lynch’s career is finished, it would be a disappointment if the main thing fans remember is a win over a mediocre Army team.
Still, no matter what Lynch does in his career, Saturday’s performance will be tough to forget.