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Hidden History: Florida State vs Northern Illinois

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Florida State welcomes the Huskies.

USA Today Sports

Basic Facts

All-time series record: FSU leads 1-0

First and only meeting: 2013 Orange Bowl; Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL; FSU won 31-10

Making History

Northern Illinois was the first team from the MAC to qualify for a BCS bowl game. During the 2012 season, NIU was led by quarterback Jordan Lynch and free safety Jimmie Ward. The Huskies finished the regular season 12-1, beating Kent State in double overtime for the MAC Championship. That win was the Huskies’ only win over a ranked opponent that season, and NIU finished the regular season ranked No. 15. Because they were ranked in the top 16 and were ranked higher than a champion from an automatic qualifying conference, NIU earned a BCS bid and was selected to play in the Orange Bowl against FSU.

Northern Illinois’ only regular season loss that year was to Iowa, in the first week of the season, by a score of 18-17. Northern Illinois also played Iowa in week one of this season, losing 33-7.

Florida State made some history of their own in that game. FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel became just the second quarterback in FBS history to win four bowl games, joining West Virginia’s Pat White.

NIU head coach Dave Doeren didn’t coach this game, having already left to take the North Carolina State job, where he is still the head coach. He later told Scott Frost, the current Nebraska coach, that choosing to not coach the bowl game in favor of focusing on the Wolfpack was “one of his biggest regrets in coaching.”

Did You Know?

Saturday’s game will be the first time Florida State has played a team from the MAC more than once. FSU has played Toledo, Western Michigan, Ohio, and Northern Illinois once each. FSU won all four matchups.

The Bulletin Board

Northern Illinois’ run-first quarterback Jordan Lynch couldn’t help himself and made these comments before the game:

They’re fast, they’re physical, but they haven’t seen anything like our offense. We play an uptempo pace. We play really fast, a lot of shifting, guys going back and forth each way. It causes a lot of confusion. As soon as we get that rhythm going, it’s pretty hard to stop. We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees, and then just keep pounding away.

The Game

FSU jumped out to a 7-0 lead thanks to an electric 60 yard run by fullback Lonnie Pryor, who found the end zone untouched:

FSU added to the lead just eleven seconds before halftime on a six-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Rashad Greene:

NIU would finally find the end zone with 9:55 left in the third quarter to make it 17-10, but the Huskies had managed just 110 yards of offense to that point. The Huskies tried a surprise onside kick, and recovered it at their own 47-yard line. After a few first downs, just as FSU fans started to think the Huskies might tie the game, Florida State safety Terrance Brooks intercepted Lynch:

With FSU up 24-10 in the fourth quarter, Pryor put the final nail in the NIU coffin on this run, again virtually untouched:

Pryor would finish with five carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns and take home the MVP trophy.

The Answer

The Seminoles let their play do the talking, walking away with a three-touchdown margin of victory in a game that was never really in doubt. But that wasn’t enough for FSU linebacker and future NFL starter Vince Williams, who said this after the game:

He’s terrible. I can’t believe they tried us like that. They tried our life, man. ... He’s not good at all. It motivated us a lot. That was straight-up bulletin board material. First of all because of how much success our defense had. We’ve been really, really good and nobody’s ever said anything like that to us. So we were like, ‘this man must have lost his mind.’ What did he do that was good? He didn’t do nothing that was good, we were killing him. That touched me, that hurt. This is my defense. This is me. That’s me out there. He tried our lives, man.

A Huskies offense that had averaged 485 yards and 41 points a game was thoroughly dominated. NIU averaged just 3.5 yards per play vs. FSU and Lynch finished the game with just 44 yards rushing and 176 yards passing on 41 attempts (4.29 yards per attempt). Williams finished the game with ten tackles and a sack, and Florida State’s defense would finish as the third-best in the country.

Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State
Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State
Discover Orange Bowl - Northern Illinois v Florida State
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01: Jordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies is tackled by the Florida State Seminoles defense during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images