Stat Watch: Lynch shining in spotlight for No. 16 Memphis
Paxton Lynch might not have a seat at the Heisman Trophy presentation in December, thanks to a star-studded group of contenders led by LSU running back Leonard Fournette.
The Memphis quarterback, however, has made a solid case as the best non-Power 5 conference player in the country – a resume he solidified in front of a national audience in this weekend’s 66-42 win at Tulsa on Friday night.
Lynch, a week after guiding the undefeated No. 16 Tigers past Mississippi, put together another remarkable performance in the win over the Golden Hurricane. The junior from Florida threw for a career-high 447 yards on 32-of-44 passing, also throwing for four touchdowns in the highest-scoring FBS game so far this season.
His yardage was the second highest of the week in the country behind Washington State quarterback Luke Falk’s 514 yards passing, and he’s now fifth in the country in passing efficiency, with 17 touchdowns and one interception.
Not bad for someone who has gone from lightly recruited in high school – he missed half of his senior season with a knee injury – to putting himself and his Memphis teammates in the national spotlight.
”I just try my best to block (the attention) out and think of it as another game,” Lynch said. ”The guys around me keep playing great when the games are on TV, and even when they’re not on TV.”
The 6-foot-7, 245-pound Lynch struggled as a redshirt freshman in 2013, completing 58.2 percent of his passes and throwing 10 interceptions and only nine touchdowns. His steady improvement began last year when he threw for 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but he’s been spectacular this year – a jump he credited to Tigers coach Justin Fuente and the coaching staff.
”My second year, I just realized that you can’t just go out there and play the game,” Lynch said. ”You’ve got to prepare for it. … Once I realized that, I gave myself an opportunity to play good and I’ve been playing well.”
Some other notable statistical performers following the start of the second half of the season:
GOLDEN GARRETT: Lynch wasn’t the only star performer in Memphis’ win over Tulsa, with Golden Hurricane wide receiver Keyarris Garrett catching 14 passes for a career-high 268 yards. The receiving yards were the most in the country for the week, and Garrett is making a habit of playing well against top teams – he also caught 14 passes for 189 yards against No. 14 Oklahoma last month.
SURGING TIGERS: For many, the perception is that Clemson is an offense-first program under coach Dabo Swinney. The No. 3 Tigers are putting up points this season – averaging 38.4 per game – but they are also one of the top defensive teams in the country. Following a 58-0 win over Miami on Saturday, Clemson is fourth nationally in total defense – allowing 262.3 yards per game.
ROSEN’S RECORDS: UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen added to his record-setting freshman season in a 40-24 win over California. Rosen set a school record with 34 completions, also throwing for a career-best 399 yards for the No. 24 Bruins.
FOURNETTE WATCH: A week in review just wouldn’t be complete without an update on Fournette, LSU’s remarkable sophomore running back. He had 150 yards in a 48-20 win over Western Kentucky and is now averaging 193.1 yards rushing per game. That’s 45 more yards per game than second-best Dalvin Cook of Florida State.
EXTRA POINTS: Penn State senior defensive end Carl Nassib had a sack in a 31-30 win over Maryland, and he leads the country with 12 1/2 sacks on the season. … San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin had the top rushing performance of the week with 263 yards on the ground in a win over New Mexico. The senior is now third in the country with 144.9 yards rushing per game. … Two teams have yet to allow a sack this season: Air Force and No. 20 Toledo.