Northern Illinois dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has set multiple NCAA records while leading the Huskies to an 11-1 record , No. 18 (USA Today)/19 (Associated Press) national ranking and perfect 8-0 mark in Mid-American Conference play, has been named the 2012 winner of the MAC’s Vern Smith Leadership Award, the league office announced Wednesday.
The Vern Smith Leadership Award is presented annually to the MAC’s top football player as selected by MAC head coaches.
Lynch becomes the sixth Huskie player to win the award in the last seven years and is the third NIU signal-caller to win the coveted trophy all-time. Lynch’s predecessor, Chandler Harnish, won the Vern Smith Award a year ago while Tim Tyrrell was the first NIU quarterback named MAC MVP when he was honored in 1983.
“I’m extremely happy for Jordan and think he’s a great representative of that award,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “I think Jordan stands for everything that award is about. To see an NIU player win the Vern Smith Award six of the last seven years says a lot about our program.”
Lynch, who was also named the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year by a contingent of league media, leads a group of five Huskies named to the first team All Mid-American Conference squad, with two more NIU players selected second-team All-MAC.
In addition to Lynch, receiver Martel Moore, defensive ends Sean Progar and Alan Baxter, and safety Jimmie Ward earned first-team All-MAC recognition. Linebacker Tyrone Clark and left tackle Tyler Loos were second-team selections.
Lynch is in the midst of one of the best rushing seasons ever by a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) quarterback. His dual-threat ability as a passer and runner has powered a Northern Illinois offense that averages 40.5 points per game. Individually, Lynch ranks third nationally in total offense, is fifth in rushing, 12th in passing efficiency and is responsible for 19.5 points per game. He averages 7.9 yards per play, third highest in the nation.
Winning the Vern Smith Award “is definitely a great accomplishment, and it definitely wouldn’t happen without all of my coaches and teammates,” Lynch said. “I’m grateful to the MAC coaches. Winning the award shows that your talent, your accomplishments and your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. It shows the respect they have for me as a person and as a player.”
Lynch has set the NCAA record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback with 10 to destroy the previous mark of five straight 100-yard games. He became the first FBS quarterback ever to pass for 400 yards and rush for 150 in the same game when he threw for 407 yards on 25-of-36 passing and ran for 166 yards on 30 carries in NIU’s 31-24 win over Toledo. Lynch needs 92 yards to break the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. He has 2,750 passing and 1,611 rushing yards on the year.
NIU’s current string of six Vern Smith Leadership Award winners in the last seven years began in 2006 when tailback Garrett Wolfe became the first Northern Illinois player since Tyrrell to win the trophy. Defensive end Larry English won back-to-back league “MVP” trophies in 2007 and 2008, while Huskie tailback Chad Spann was the coaches’ selection in 2010 and Harnish claimed the honor last year.
Northern Illinois’ three first-team selections on defense are the most for the Huskies since 2004. Progar earned his third All-MAC honor as the Glenview native was a first-team choice in 2010 and a member of the All-MAC second team last season. The senior has made 44 tackles, 22 solo, with 8.5 quarterback sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss to rank third in the MAC in sacks. All-time, he ranks third on the NIU all-time chart for quarterback sacks with 24 and is seventh in tackles for loss with 39.
Ward is the only other Huskie previously named to a Mid-American Conference team as he was a second-team selection a year ago. This year, Northern Illinois’ leading tackler has made 84 tackles, 77 solo, leads NIU in interceptions with three and ranks second on the team in pass break-ups with nine.
Baxter has enjoyed a career year as a senior with nine quarterback sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss to go along with his 54 total tackles. He ranks in the Top 30 in the country in sacks and, along with Progar, gives NIU the top tandem at defensive end in the league.
“I’m excited that Sean, Alan and Jimmie were rewarded with first team honors,” Doeren said. “All three of them play at an extremely high level week and week out and have continued to improve their level of play throughout the season. Not only are they great players on the field, they are great leaders for us.”
Martel Moore is capping off a tremendous career with one of the best seasons by a receiver in Northern Illinois history. The senior from San Antonio, Texas has 67 catches for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead NIU. He became just the sixth player in Northern Illinois history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards in a season, while his 11 TD catches rank tied for third on the Huskie all-time list. Moore has tied the school record for 100-yard receiving games in a season with six.
“With the quality of receivers that exist in the MAC, to have Martel on the first team means a lot,” Doeren said. “Martel is a very unselfish player and a leader on our offense who takes every opportunity he can get to make plays.”
Clark and Loos, NIU’s lone selections on either the second or third team, earned the first conference awards of their careers at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Clark is a senior in his final season with 77 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss, while Loos is the Huskies’ redshirt freshman left tackle who, until breaking his leg late in the Toledo game, was playing the best along NIU’s young line.
“I’m happy for Tyrone and Tyler, but there were a lot of other players on our team that I think are deserving and didn’t get rewarded,” Doeren said. “I know that there are a lot of great players across the conference and many of them maybe aren’t on one of these teams. We certainly have some of those players at NIU.”
No. 19 (AP)/18 (USA Today Coaches) Northern Illinois (11-1, 8-0) puts its national ranking on the line in a nationally televised ESPN2 match-up versus No. 18/19 Kent State (11-1, 8-0) Friday night, Nov. 30, in the Marathon MAC Championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. (CT).