Lynch's footwork gets him to Orange Bowl stage


Lynch's footwork gets him to Orange Bowl stage

MIAMI (AP) Seems like every half-century, a quarterback from Northern Illinois does something never seen previously in college football.

In 1963, the buzz hovered around George Bork's passing.

This season, the acclaim was over Jordan Lynch's running.

It's not a stretch to say that without Lynch's footwork, Northern Illinois wouldn't have busted into the Bowl Championship Series and gotten a spot in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Lynch can throw the ball - 24 touchdowns against only five interceptions this season - but he seems better when he takes off running.

The native of Chicago's south side entered the Orange Bowl with 1,771 yards rushing, the most by any quarterback in any college season.

He also carried a streak of 11 straight 100-yard rushing games into the matchup with the Seminoles, another NCAA record for quarterbacks.

``Probably the toughest player I've ever seen,'' Northern Illinois quarterbacks coach Bob Cole said.

Ask Lynch about his records, and he'll simply shrug.

Ask him about people raving over his toughness, and he'll happily start talking.

``Living in Chicago and growing up, I think you're sort of blue-collar, always got a chip on your shoulder, always do things the right way and respect the game,'' Lynch said. ``Always tough. The neighborhood was a bunch of guys like me, just liked to get after it, blue-collar guys, always playing football in the street, tackling instead of two-hand touch, stuff like that.''

So in other words, a perfect primer for the offense he's operating now.

Northern Illinois thrives on going no-huddle, up-tempo, with Lynch operating the read option. When he throws it, he's typically accurate - of all the quarterbacks in the nation with more than 350 attempts so far this season, only three had fewer interceptions.

When he takes off, the former running back tends to forget he's a quarterback.

``I think the best part is he delivers the blow most of the time,'' offensive lineman Jared Volk, Lynch's roommate. ``He's not a quarterback that's going to slide. He's going to go into you head-first and he's going to make you regret trying to tackle him. So I think that's the best part about Jordan. He gets a lot of respect from the offensive line for the way he runs.''

But wouldn't it be a little easier if Lynch tried to avoid contact every now and then?

``I know Jordan,'' Volk said. ``He's never going to slide.''

Lynch doesn't see reason to change his ways, certainly not now.

He also can't help but wonder if his rugged style might be his ticket to the next level as well. In this era of young, dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, Lynch said it gives a 6-foot-1, 220-pounder like himself hope of getting there.

``I think the quarterback level is definitely changing in the NFL,'' Lynch said. ``I mean, there's only a select few Peyton Mannings.''

Even after all the accolades that Lynch has received this season, he's hardly the first Northern Illinois quarterback to be widely celebrated.

While it's certainly possible that many college football fans didn't know much about the Huskies until they got invited to the Orange Bowl, the program is steeped in both the game's history - and its innovation. It was somewhere around the early 1960s that Northern Illinois was credited with bringing what was then called the ``shotgun spread'' offense into the game, and in 1963 Bork threw for a then-college-record 3,077 yards.

The 3,000-yard mark was history-making for Bork.

And in the second quarter of the Orange Bowl, it was for Lynch as well.

He entered the Orange Bowl needing only 38 yards passing to become the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,500 more in the same season. And it took him 14 attempts against the Seminoles to do it, but his third completion of the Orange Bowl gave him 40 passing yards for the night and 3,002 for the season.

``How does he practice?'' Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher asked. ``I mean, he does so much in the game, I don't know how he's got the energy to practice all week. The guy runs the ball for 130 yards a game and throws it for 250 or whatever. It's amazing what he does and the pounding and the beating ... I mean, he's not an extremely big guy. He's well built, but he's not a huge guy, and to do the things he does he's a great competitor.''

And the Seminoles are quick to point out that Lynch isn't Northern Illinois' only competitor.

``They've won all but one game, and there's other weapons besides Jordan Lynch that we're going to have to be prepared for,'' said D.J. Eliot, Florida State's defensive coordinator for the bowl game before he departs for Kentucky. ``They've got good speed, and their offensive line is very effective. They work well together. So you know, we're conscious of more than just one player.''

Still, for Lynch, it's funny how things can change so quickly.

Lynch wasn't even the starting quarterback at Northern Illinois until this season. Coming out of high school - where he ran the triple-option - he had exactly one scholarship offer for college.

And then came this breakout season, where he was seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting and gets to finish on the BCS stage.

``I thought he would have a good season,'' Volk said. ``But I didn't think he was going to have a season like this.''

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon


Scandrick, Hankins both visiting with Redskins soon

The Redskins will be taking visits from two former NFC East foes in the next few days.

Former Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will visit Redskins Park on Monday. Scandrick, 31, has been with Dallas since them made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. He has eight career interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

The Cowboys released Scandrick on Friday in a salary cap move. The Redskins would be attracted to Scandrick’s versatility. He can play either side at corner and, of particular interest to the Redskins, in the slot. That is a position of concern for Washington since they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the deal for quarterback Alex Smith.

The Redskins have been trying to get former Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign for the past several days, but they can’t come together on money. Scandrick could be a fallback if they need one.

The other visitor will be former Giants defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins, per John Keim of ESPN. Hankins, 25, was a second-round draft pick and played his first four years in New York. Last year he moved on to the Colts as a free agent. They are changing their defense and decided to release Hankins after paying him $10 million last year.

Hankins could bolster a defensive line that still needs young talent. It’s not known if he would be considered a nose tackle in the Redskins’ scheme. The Giants ran a 4-3 defense and in the Colts’ 3-4 he was used as an end.

The Redskins had former Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson in for a visit earlier this week, but he decided to sign with the Packers.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.