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Utah State holds Northern Illinois, QB Jordan Lynch in check

Jordan Lynch's last pass in a Northern Illinois uniform was a touchdown. It may well be the last pass Lynch ever attempts in a competitive setting, as the Heisman Trophy finalist's limitations as a quarterback were exposed by a rugged Utah State defense in a 21-14 loss Thursday night in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Lynch was 20-of-35 passing for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while adding 39 rushing yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. Lynch (6-feet, 216 pounds) struggled to get the ball downfield and too often tried to take off and run when the pocket began to break down.

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There were a handful of bright spots, especially when Lynch was in a nice rhythm in the first half by completing 14 of his first 18 passes or throwing outside the pocket, but certainly not enough to convince NFL teams he could play the position at the next level. Instead, Lynch almost certainly will have to change positions, an approach that has worked for Josh Cribbs and Julian Edelman.

The Huskies' best player instead was safety Jimmie Ward (5-11, 192), who showed great range with six tackles, two pass breakups and one interception. Ward has quietly been one of the best defensive backs in the nation over the last two seasons, posting 11 interceptions and defending 27 passes. Those ball skills will be valued in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Aggies were paced by senior running back Joey DeMartino, who rushed for 143 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Operating behind a veteran offensive line including center Tyler Larsen, DeMartino was able to control the tempo and keep the ball for 19:52 of the second half. That allowed the Utah State defense to remain fresh and harass Lynch.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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