- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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DeKALB, Ill. -- Jordan Lynch walked into the Northern Illinois media room with a pair of teammates and his coach, Rod Carey, who wasted no time in getting straight to the point for the handful of national media members and seven NFL scouts who made it out here for a Wednesday night MAC game.
"Now I'm just going to say this, and don't anybody take offense, and you guys can just close your ears for a second," said Carey, looking at his players at the end. "I don't know -- if Jordan isn't in the conversation for the Heisman, I don't know what people are watching. They obviously were asleep, OK? So in my estimation, that trophy goes to the best player in the nation, OK? Well with the performance that he had today -- and he had help, believe me, we had a lot of good plays out there from everybody -- but from the performance he had tonight, he dang sure should be in that conversation. I'll head that off right now as we go.
"So with that we'll open it for questions."
The more emphatic statement had come in the three hours prior, when Lynch, in front of his biggest opponent and on his biggest stage yet this season, did not disappoint. The redshirt senior completed 26 of 32 passes, despite several drops, for a season-high 345 yards. He had two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He carried the ball 20 times for 123 yards and two more scores. Most importantly, he helped the No. 15 Huskies beat Ball State 48-27 in a game not nearly as lopsided as the final score indicates.
And, just like Carey had instructed him to, he put on his earmuffs for the postgame plea from his coach.
"I wasn't listening. I closed my ears. So I don't know what you're talking about," Lynch said. "But it's great. Anytime a coach believes in you and has trust in you, it's a pretty good feeling."
Lynch had entered the media room with a black NIU baseball cap with red, white and blue lettering. He was holding a blue Sharpie throughout the press conference, just minutes after delivering a couple of signature plays that, should the 10-0 Huskies run the table, crash the BCS party again and -- just maybe -- get their quarterback to New York for the Heisman ceremony, will be replayed over and over.
There was the third-and-10 run from his own 28 midway through the third quarter, when Lynch literally carried Cardinals end Jonathan Newsome for a few yards before finally shedding him on a spin -- withstanding a hit from linebacker Ben Ingle, for good measure -- and then sprinting down the visiting sideline and diving for a first down that was confirmed after a measurement.
That kept alive a drive that ended with a fourth-down touchdown run from Cameron Stingily that gave the Huskies a 27-24 lead.
Then there was the third-and-11 pass from his own 38 midway through the fourth quarter, with Ingle and Newsome again the victims of not taking Lynch down when they had him in their grasp, as they were then forced to watch the signal-caller scramble and find Matt Williams for a 25-yard completion.
Two plays later, Lynch lofted a beautiful pass to a wide open Da'Ron Brown for a 36-yard touchdown that made it 34-27.
After a key fourth-and-1 stop on Ball State's ensuing drive, Lynch officially iced things with a 16-yard touchdown run himself at the 1:26 mark. B-C-S chants broke out in the student section, lasting for the rest of the game -- which included a Joe Windsor pick-six -- and through the on-field celebration afterward.
Lynch pleaded ignorance to the chants, as he was doing a television interview at the time. He said he changes the channel whenever Heisman chatter comes on the air.
But he admitted that the serious chatter would be good for NIU and the MAC, and he senses discrimination toward the conference whenever the words "Heisman" or "BCS" get thrown around.
"I feel like we get disrespected all over the place," Lynch said. "All we do is do our job and win games. And I feel like we shouldn't be punished for that."
This narrative is not entirely new to this place. Lynch finished seventh in the Heisman voting a year ago, but a 31-10 Orange Bowl loss to Florida State sent the Huskies into the offseason on a sour note.
"After losing that game we had a bad taste in our mouth," Lynch said. "We came up with a motto: Finish the Fight. That's what we want to do this year. We want to get back to a BCS bowl and we want to win."
That will probably require a loss from Fresno State somewhere between now and the Mountain West Conference title game on Dec. 7.
Still, Lynch insisted the best is yet to come from him and from this program. For a man who surpassed the 9,000-yard mark for his career Wednesday night and tallied his ninth career 200-yard passing, 100-yard rushing game, those are strong words.
After 468 total yards of offense -- the fifth-most in school history -- he had to ask a school official if this latest act put his squad at 9-0 or 10-0.
Ten and 0, she told him, though the latter number is all he really needed to know in making NIU's BCS case.
"I'm focused on the next game, you know what I mean?" Lynch said. "We keep playing how we do, we take it one game at a time, I'm a firm believer that everything will take care of itself."