For Lynch, big prize still out there in Heisman

For Jordan Lynch, one big prize is still out there.

Northern Illinois’ star quarterback will find out Saturday in

New York if he’s the Heisman Trophy winner.

Lynch was one of six finalists invited Monday to the ceremony

along with overwhelming favorite Jameis Winston of Florida State

and last year’s winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.

”I don’t think it will all sink in until I actually give it

time to sink in and really look back,” Lynch said. ”I don’t think

that will happen until after this season and after the last

game.”

Lynch led No. 24 Northern Illinois (12-1) to within a victory of

a second straight BCS berth after making the Orange Bowl last

season.

That possibility got doused with a 20-point loss to Bowling

Green in the Mid-American Conference championship game, but the big

prize still is out there for a senior who set the major college

rushing record for yards rushing by a quarterback.

He found out around 4:45 p.m. Central on Monday that he was a

finalist from coach Rod Carey, who asked if he felt like hanging

out in New York. Lynch tweeted the news a few minutes before 1996

winner Danny Wuerffel made the announcement. By then, he had

already contacted his mom Sheila – or at least made an attempt.

The problem was her phone was dead. She was working at a new

job, and Lynch didn’t have her office number. His dad Jim wasn’t

answering, either.

”So I call my house phone and try and give everyone the news

and I’m still trying my mom, still no pick up,” he said. ”She

finds out by a family friend or something like that, so it wasn’t

me to give her the news.”

There’s been plenty of good news for the Huskies with Lynch

leading the way the past two years. Carey knew they were in good

hands after a particularly poor practice before last season.

”He pulled up the whole offense when Coach (Dave) Doeren was

done talking to the whole team,” said Carey, who rose from line

coach at the start of the season to offensive coordinator and head

coach before the Orange Bowl. ”He got after everybody and didn’t

get after them in a way of yelling and screaming. It was an, `I’m

embarrassed. We have too many seniors we’re playing for.’ It’s one

of those times as a coach it sends chills down your spine because

you know you have something here that’s pretty special.”

Lynch finished seventh in the Heisman voting last year in his

first season as a starter while the Huskies became the first MAC

team to land in a BCS game. But with a chance to crash the party

again, the Huskies came up short.

They have a date with Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl in San

Diego after being knocked out of the BCS running with that loss to

Bowling Green last week, a game in which Lynch ran for 126 yards

and two touchdowns and threw for 219 yards and a score. He also had

two interceptions, including one in the fourth quarter that led to

a TD. But despite the loss, there’s no denying what Lynch has

accomplished.

He’s completed just over 63 percent of his passes this season

while breaking his own rushing record for a major college

quarterback with 1,881 yards. He ranks fourth in total offense (351

yards per game) and became only the fifth player in NCAA history

with at least 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in a season.

Is it enough to beat out Winston and Manziel, not to mention

fellow finalists AJ McCarron of Alabama, Auburn’s Tre Mason and

Boston College’s Andre Williams?

No MAC player has won the Heisman and the only others to be

invited to the ceremony were Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington

and wide receiver Randy Moss.

”I’m not going there to come in last place or second place,”

Lynch said. ”I’m going there to win.”

Win or lose, it’ll be a memorable trip.

He’ll be visiting New York for the first time – ”The Big Apple.

That’s what they call it, right?” Lynch said. He’s looking forward

to meeting the other candidates and past winners, such as Bo

Jackson. And he’s happy to carry the torch for the mid-majors, for

the players who were passed over or overlooked by the big boys –

just like him.

Purdue and Illinois invited him to camps, but Lynch said, ”I’m

sure every kid gets asked to come down to camp.”

Few get an invitation like this.