Jordan Lynch’s dual-threat abilities are quickly generating a dilemma every defensive coordinator is going to have to game-plan for.
The Huskies’ junior quarterback went 23-for-35 passing for 235 yards and two touchdowns while running for 134 yards on 22 carries Saturday in NIU’s 30-23 win over Kansas.
Kansas head coach Charlie Weis said it best in last Monday’s Big 12 teleconference
“The problem with him is that he’s running the ball so effectively in the read-option, everyone’s trying to load up the box against him, which opens up opportunities for big chunks in the passing game,” Weis said. “You really have to pick your poison here. If you bring in an extra guy down there to try to contain the run, and risk chunks in the passing game, I think that’s a fine line you have to tread when you’re looking at him.”
After Saturday, Lynch is now 12th in the nation in rushing yards and has averaged 263 yards passing in his past three games.
Here’s a breakdown of how NIU used the multidimensional quarterback to attack Kansas’ defense on Saturday.
SHORT PASSING ATTEMPTS
With Kansas’ defensive backs playing off of NIU’s receivers most of the time, Lynch accumulated most of his yardage on throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage, going 17 for 22 for 147 yards.
“Whatever they give us, that’s what we’re going to take,” Lynch said. “One day it could be run-heavy, another day it could be pass-heavy, so whatever the defense gives us that’s what we’re going to take.”
The majority of those throws were quick attempts out in the flat to receivers on either side. They were low-risk and highly successful as Lynch had only three incompletions on 18 attempts, one of which was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Lynch’s lone interception, which the quarterback said was a result of a miscommunication, came on a quick throw intended for Martel Moore.
MID-RANGE AND DOWNFIELD THROWS
Kansas often didn’t challenge NIU’s wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, but Lynch still took shots down field, at times.
He was 6-for-13 passing for 88 yards on throws of more than 10 yards and his favorite target in those instances was Perez Ashford. The senior wide receiver was on the other end of four of those completions, including a 22-yard pickup on a throw 15 yards down the field.
Eight of Lynch’s running attempts were designed QB draws, resulting in 52 yards. That included a 23-yard pickup on 3rd-and-9 in the fourth quarter.
The threat of Lynch’s running attack up the middle allowed for the short jump pass to Martel Moore that went for a 65-yard touchdown.
All of Lynch’s QB draws come from the shotgun, yet maybe his most impressive run of the day came on a QB sneak on 3rd-and-1 during NIU’s last touchdown drive.
“That was the best play of the game right there,” Doeren said. “Have you ever seen a sneak go for 12 [yards]?”
The other half of Lynch’s running attack comes from the read-option, where Lynch chooses to keep it himself or hand the ball off to a running back.
Lynch kept it on 10 plays and rushed for 47 yards through the read-option, including back-to-back gains of 18 and 14 yards in the second quarter. NIU largely went away from this in the fourth quarter after Doeren said they found a different formation they could run out of.
Lynch only handed it off on five occasions.