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Lynch leads NIU into Poinsettia Bowl

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SAN DIEGO (AP) - Jordan Lynch will make a run at history Thursday night when he suits up for the final time for No. 24 Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl against Utah State.

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Lynch already owns the major college record for yards rushing for a quarterback with 1,881. With 119 yards, he can become the first player to rush for 2,000 yards and throw for 2,000.

''I'm just really proud of him and wish I had him for about 10 more years but we don't,'' NIU coach Rod Carey said. ''This is the last game we get him. That's the biggest thing with him.''

Lynch has passed for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns. He's rushed for 22 scores and even caught a touchdown pass in leading the Huskies to a 12-1 record.

''Listen, we ask him to do a lot, and it's not because that's our system. It's because he can,'' Carey said. ''Those are the things that amaze you. He makes the complicated things and the hard things skillwise look easy. That's what amazes you every day. You tell him one time one play and then it's done. It's locked in a vault. That's what is amazing to me.''

That's why Lynch was named to The Associated Press All-America team as an all-purpose player.

Utah State coach Matt Wells knows Lynch has quite the supporting cast in fellow 1,000-yard rusher Cameron Stingily and wide receivers Tommylee Lewis and Da'Ron Brown.

''Jordan Lynch is fun to watch - it's not fun to watch because you understand you're going to have to defend him, but from a quarterback perspective, I've got a lot of respect for him,'' said Wells, who played quarterback at Utah State in the mid-1990s.

''The guy is an 1,800-yard running back, and by the way he's over 60-percent completion and 3-to-1 touchdown-interception ratio. It's amazing, and that's back-to-back years. As you study him and the things that he's done since he's become a starter, he's a flat-out winner,'' Wells said.

''I said to Rod last Wednesday when we were talking, you know, it's almost like it's a once-in-a-lifetime young man to coach because I know he's the face of that program and everything that he's meant to that staff and that program and that city, that university.''

Here are five things to look for when Northern Illinois plays Utah State (8-5):

LYNCH PIN: Lynch accounts for 65 percent of the NIU offense with 1,881 yards rushing, 2,676 passing and 43 touchdowns. He's 24-3 as the starter in two seasons. His eight 100-yard rushing games include two of more than 300 yards.

CONSOLATION PRIZE: The teams are coming off losses in conference championship games. NIU, the Mid-American Conference West Division champion, was routed 47-27 by Bowling Green in the conference title game. Utah State, which edged Boise State for the Mountain West Mountain Division title, lost 24-17 to Fresno State in the league championship game.

SKILL GUYS: Lynch isn't a one-man band. Cameron Stingily has 1,081 yards rushing, giving NIU its first 1,000-yard rushing tandem. Three wide receivers have at least 30 catches each: Tommylee Lewis has 80 catches for 660 yards and three touchdowns, Da'Ron Brown has 42 catches for 689 yards and nine scores and Juwan Brescacin has 30 catches for 469 yards and five TDs.

LINEBACKERS: Jake Doughty and Zach Vigil lead an Aggies defense that has intercepted 16 passes in its last nine games and scored three touchdowns in 2013. Doughty has 140 tackles, two sacks, an interception, one fumble recovery - which he returned 86 yards for a TD against Fresno State - and one forced fumble. Vigil has 115 tackles, two sacks, one interception, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

BOWLING: NIU is playing in its sixth straight bowl game and second Poinsettia Bowl. It lost 37-7 to TCU in 2006 Poinsettia Bowl. Utah State is playing in its school-record third straight bowl game. The Aggies are facing a MAC team in a bowl for the third straight year and the fourth time overall. They beat Toledo in last year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, lost to Ohio in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and beat Ball State in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl.

---

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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The Associated Press
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