Lynch, Huskies arent changing approach for Orange Bowl

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Lynch, Huskies arent changing approach for Orange Bowl

DEKALB -- Several campus buildings were still bathed in celebratory orange lights on Friday even as Northern Illinois University shut down for a holiday break.

But on the Huskie Stadium turf, quarterback Jordan Lynch and his teammates were too busy to notice as preparation continued for next month's Orange Bowl showdown with Florida State.

"It's starting to sink in (and) practices have been going good," said Lynch, the record-setting setting junior quarterback who's guided Northern Illinois to a 12-1 record.

(But) its been kind of crazy since that one eventful weekend -- winning the MAC championship, losing Coach (Dave) Doeren, having Coach (Rod) Carey step in and then getting the Orange Bowl pick," he said.

Attention on Lynch and the Huskies continues to rise since they beat Kent State in double overtime for the MAC title and then crashed the elite Bowl Championship Series party to earn a major berth.

And while notice for the program and university is welcome, Lynch and the Huskies arent changing their approach while preparing for the Seminoles.

Florida State looks fast and physical on defense, from what Ive been seeing (and) they pride themselves on turnovers, he said. This will be the best defense weve played all year.

Well make a few wrinkles here and there on offense, but were going to do what got us here and stick to what we do.

Lynch has been a potent threat as both a passer and runner this season. He leads the nation in rushing (1,771 yards), total offensive yards gained (4,733) and is tied with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel for second nationally for points responsible (258).

His rushing total is the most ever for an FBS quarterback, topping the mark of 1,702 set by Michigans Denard Robinson in 2010.

Seventh in Heisman Trophy voting this month, Lynch was the only FBS quarterback this season to pass for 150 yards and run for 150 on four separate occasions. Other top quarterbacks like Manziel, Robinson and three others did it just once this year.

Hes truly one of the best players in the country, Toledo coach Matt Campbell said after the Huskies beat the Rockets 31-24 on Nov. 14 to clinch the MAC West crown. Hes been the essence of consistency...His ability to run the football with such power, yet throw the ball with great consistency and (also) have the ability to sustain that success, a lot of credit has to go to him.

Lynch spent several years as a backup to former Huskie Chandler Harnish -- another quarterback proficient as a passer and runner -- and is quick to credit Harnish as a mentor.

He was always there, he was a big brother always there helping me out, Lynch said. I was his understudy for three years and anytime I had questions he was there to help me.

While the recent ride has been heady for the first-year Huskie starter, there was no certainty hed have a major college chance despite playing for the legendary Chicago-Mt. Carmel program.

As a Caravan senior, he passed for 1,221 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 848 yards in Mt. Carmels triple option attack. He also earned the Lawless Award as the Catholic Leagues top player.

But colleges didnt show a lot of interest. Those that did looked more at Lynchs athletic skills than as a quarterback.

The only school that gave me a chance at quarterback was Northern, Lynch said. It worked out, I guess.

Caravan coach Frank Lenti told then-NIU coach Jerry Kill he was confident Lynch would make a mark.

"When (Kill) asked me about him, I said 'Coach, I can promise you one thing. No one in your program will ever outwork Jordan Lynch,'" Lenti said. "When he steps out on the field, the leadership level rises dramatically."

But to Carey, who will juggle head coach and offensive coordinator duties for the Orange Bowl, leadership is just one of Lynch's qualities.

"He's brought a lot, to summarize is hard," he said. "He a good leader, he's a good person, he's a good teammate. On top of all of that, he's a good player. We wouldn't be talking about none of that if he wasn't.

"But the best thing out of all those is that he's a good person. Guys like to be around him."

Among them is running back Akeem Daniels.

Hes an amazing person, Daniels said. Hes a freak of nature as everyone can tell. He takes me back to my Pop Warner day -- a quarterback back doing things that are unbelievable -- and I just feed off that.

The Huskies were originally set to train at the indoor DeKalb Recreation Center. But skies were clear and temperatures hovered in the mid-40s as Carey opted to switch outdoors for a 90-minute session.

With rain in the forecast for Saturday, Northern Illinois will likely be back indoors. The Huskies are scheduled to train daily through next Thursday, break for Christmas and then reconvene Dec. 26 for an early morning trip to Florida.

James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields offered a taxed bullpen a significant boost on Tuesday night.

The right-hander pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox offense provided him with enough support for a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,553 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields lowered his ERA over his last seven starts to 2.11 as he worked around four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. Shields threw strikes on 70 of 117 pitches as the White Sox won their fourth in a row, including their second straight over the Cubs. David Robertson recorded his 24th save in 28 tries.

A turnaround that began June 23rd in Boston reached its high point Tuesday.

Since an atrocious three-start introduction, Shields has rediscovered the form that made him one of the top starters in the American League for the better part of a decade.

With the bullpen in need of a huge lift after throwing 19 1/3 innings in the previous four games, Shields delivered. The Cubs made him work early as he needed 56 pitches for the first three innings. But Shields got a pair of quick innings in the middle and pushed deep into the second of four straight meetings with the Cubs.

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Only twice did Shields find himself in any trouble and he skillfully dodged it in both instances. After a catcher’s interference call on Dioner Navarro loaded the bases with two outs in the second, Shields induced a foul out to the screen on a 3-2 pitch against Dexter Fowler. Starting there, he retired 12 of 13 batters into the sixth. Shields put the next two men on base but got Javy Baez to foul out down the line with the aid of a nice catch by Tim Anderson.

Anderson also began nice inning-ending double play in the seventh inning, which allowed Shields to return in the eighth. He retired two before issuing a walk and exiting to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

Shields has a 2.11 ERA in 47 innings over his last seven starts.

The White Sox took some pressure off Shields with a run in the first inning. Shields, who entered ranked 130th among 138 qualified starting pitchers with 3.2 runs per game, found himself ahead 1-0 when Jose Abreu took advantage of a leadoff walk by Adam Eaton and a Tim Anderson single with an RBI base hit of his own. The White Sox left the bases loaded but made Hendricks work.

Hendricks rebounded and retired 10 of 12 into the fifth inning. He struck out seven through four innings and mostly held the White Sox in check.

But Adam Eaton gave Shields some extra cushion in the fifth when he blasted a solo homer to right to make it a 2-0 game. Eaton’s seventh homer traveled an estimated 395 feet.

The White Sox added another run in the sixth inning after Todd Frazier’s two-out single (a pop up to medium right that bounced off the glove of Anthony Rizzo) got things started. Frazier stole second against reliever Travis Wood, who then walked three straight batters, including Tyler Saladino, to force in a third run.

No late magic as Cubs shut out by White Sox on South Side

No late magic as Cubs shut out by White Sox on South Side

Aroldis Chapman was in uniform for the Cubs Tuesday night, but Joe Maddon never got a chance to employ his shiny new toy.

After posting late rallies the last two games, the Cubs offense was noticeably absent on Chicago's South Side, dropping a second straight game in this Crosstown matchup 3-0 in front of 39,553 fans at U.S. Cellular Field.

White Sox starter James Shields scattered four singles and four walks in 7.2 innings, using 117 pitches to shut down the Cubs lineup.

The first White Sox hitter of the game scored as Adam Eaton drew a walk and was eventually plated on Jose Abreu's RBI single three batters later.

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks settled down from there, allowing only a solo homer to Eaton in the fifth.

But the wheels came off for the Cubs in the sixth inning as Hendricks departed following two quick outs and a bloop hit from Todd Frazier that glanced off the glove of Anthony Rizzo in shallow right field.

Travis Wood came on to relieve Hendricks, but walked the first three hitters he faced to force in Frazier with the third run of the game.

The Cubs' best opportunity to score came in the second when they loaded the bases with two outs, but Dexter Fowler fouled out behind home plate. After that, only one baserunner reached second base all game for the Cubs.

Kris Bryant said before the game he was itching at another chance to face Shields after the veteran pitcher welcomed Bryant to the big leagues with a couple of strikeouts in the latter's debut last April at Wrigley Field.

But Shields once again got the best of Bryant Tuesday night, striking out the MVP candidate three times in four trips to the plate.

Bryant is now just 1-for-10 against Shields with seven strikeouts.

The Crosstown series moves to the North Side Wednesday night for the final two games.

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

Watch: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini head coach Lovie Smith

It's the start of a new era at Illinois.

Lovie Smith has returned to the Land of Lincoln, the one-time head coach of the Bears taking over the reins of the Illini football program.

After several years of losing — and just four bowl appearances in the past 14 years — Illinois gave fans plenty of reason to be excited with this high-profile hire, giving the program instant credibility and a new feeling of optimism by bringing in an experienced NFL winner.

Smith met the media and ceremoniously joined the brotherhood of Big Ten coaches Tuesday during the second day of Big Ten Media Days and talked about his vision, recruiting in his old stomping grounds and his work to turn the Illini around.

CSNChicago.com sat down with Smith for a 1-on-1 interview Tuesday, and you can check out the interview in the video above.