Florida State Seminoles: Northern Illinois Huskies

3-point stance: Stoops' bowl success

December, 26, 2013
1. With great fanfare 19 years ago, Joe Paterno of Penn State became the first coach to win every major bowl (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and, for you oldsters, the Cotton). With a lot less fanfare, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma has a chance to match Paterno if the No. 11 Sooners can figure out a way to knock off No. 3 Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Stoops is 0-1 in the Sugar; Oklahoma lost to LSU a decade ago in the BCS Championship Game.

2. Speaking of Paterno, one of his favorite methods of scouting recruits was to watch them play basketball. It gave him a different measure of their athleticism and competitive spirit. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, in discussing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston’s prowess as a pitcher, told the Associated Press recently that he loves seeing recruits play another sport. This flies in the face of the 12-month-a-year commitment that is expected of most kids today. Here’s hoping Fisher’s message breaks through.

3. Watch the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Thursday night when Northern Illinois has the ball. The Huskies have Heisman third-place finisher Jordan Lynch at quarterback and led the Mid-American Conference in every major offensive statistic. Utah State led the Mountain West in every major defensive statistic. In fact, the Aggies are the only MWC team to win by shutout this season. Utah State defeated Colorado State, 13-0, on Nov. 23.

Instant analysis: FSU 31, NIU 10

January, 2, 2013

It wasn't exactly the easy win so many predicted, but Florida State's size and speed advantage helped the Seminoles outlast upstart Northern Illinois 31-10 to win their first Orange Bowl since 1996.

Record-setting NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch found no room to work, and Florida State's dominant defense showed few flaws in its first game without departed coordinator Mark Stoops, while EJ Manuel accounted for 321 yards of offense and two touchdowns to lead the Seminoles.

It was over when: Xavier Rhodes forced a fumble from Da'Ron Brown on a second-down run with 11:15 left to play in the game. Northern Illinois had just converted a fourth-and-1 and was driving in hopes of cutting FSU's lead to seven, but the fumble was the dagger that ended any hopes of an upset. The play was reviewed, but officials ruled the ball was coming out of Brown's grip before his knee hit the ground, and the Seminoles quickly capitalized on the turnover with a Lonnie Pryor touchdown.

Game ball goes to: Pryor. The senior fullback has toiled in the shadows for four years at Florida State, earning immense respect within the locker room but relatively little fanfare outside it. Tuesday's game was different. While the rest of the FSU running game struggled, Pryor was brilliant. He opened the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run -- the longest of his career -- and put the icing on the cake with his 37-yard touchdown after NIU's fourth-quarter fumble.

Turning point: There were plenty, but NIU's two turnovers were killer. The fumble by Brown was the last straw, but a third-quarter interception by Terrence Brooks squelched another promising Huskies drive. Brooks picked off Lynch at the FSU 13-yard line to protect a slim seven-point lead.

Stat of the game: Lynch entered the game as one of the most dynamic offensive players in college football, but he found out yards are far tougher to come by against Florida State. Coming into the game, Lynch had racked up 1,771 rushing yards -- fourth most in the nation -- and was averaging 6.5 yards per carry. But Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and the FSU linebacking corps was exceptional, hitting him repeatedly and giving him nowhere to run. Lynch had bragged earlier in the week that NIU planned to wear FSU down late, but the opposite was true, and the junior quarterback finished with just 44 yards rushing on 23 carries, while completing just 36 percent of his throws.

Unsung hero: It's tough to call Manuel an unsung hero, but in a season in which he's earned just as much criticism as praise -- and maybe more -- he wrapped up a five-year career at Florida State with a solid performance. Manuel completed 27 of 39 passes for 296 yards through the air and added another 26 rushing with a touchdown. He missed a few passes -- something his critics will be happy to note -- but he connected on far more. When the FSU offense needed him, he made the throws he had to make. Manuel never lived up to his immense promise at FSU, but he was surely a very good quarterback, and he ends his career as an Orange Bowl champion and winner of four straight bowl games.

What it means: Northern Illinois shrugged off the legions of doubters and proved an unexpectedly competitive opponent, but in the end, Lynch and the Huskies simply didn't have enough to make a late charge. For Florida State, it was yet another inconsistent performance in a season that has been filled with them. But it was also the school's first BCS win in 12 years, and it marked just the second time in program history that FSU has won 12 games in a season.

Discover Orange Bowl preview 

December, 28, 2012

Florida State (11-2, 7-1) vs. Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0)

Where: Miami

NoleNation Q&A: Previewing FSU-NIU

December, 28, 2012
Florida State has a chance to win its first Orange Bowl since 1996, and most fans are viewing this year's game as an easy victory for the Seminoles, who take on the BCS busters from Northern Illinois.

On paper, it's a clear mismatch. The Huskies -- champions of the Mid-American Conference -- only played two teams from an automatic-qualifier conference, losing to 4-8 Iowa and beating 1-11 Kansas. Florida State is bigger, faster and stronger. But in BCS bowls, the mid-majors have a history of successfully sneaking up on their more nationally known competition.

So, to see if Northern Illinois is capable of pulling off a surprise, we checked in with Huskies beat writer Steve Nitz of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle for some insight.

[+] EnlargeJordan Lynch
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesJordan Lynch has combined for 43 touchdowns rushing and passing and will present a challenge for Florida State's defense.
NoleNation: We've heard plenty of talk about Jordan Lynch, and the numbers certainly speak for themselves -- 24 passing TDs, 19 rushing -- but FSU fans haven't seen a ton of him. What makes him so effective, and is his skill set one that could translate well against a bigger, more athletic defense like Florida State's?

Steve Nitz: Jordan Lynch is a great runner, and he's a threat to break off a long touchdown run every single time he touches the ball. However, he can throw effectively as well, something he may very well have to do against Florida State with how well the Seminoles stop the run. Florida State's defense will be the best unit he has seen all year, and I do think Lynch will be able to run the ball well. We'll just see how well his offensive line blocks for him.

NN: Obviously Lynch has been the focal point in the run up to the Orange Bowl, but how good is this NIU defense? Who are some players Florida State fans should be watching for?

Nitz: I've said it all season, this group has been very underrated. Lynch and the offense get a ton of credit, and deservedly so, but the Huskies' defense is leaps and bounds better than it was a year ago.

The Huskies can pressure the QB with players such as defensive ends Alan Baxter (9.5 sacks) and Sean Progar (8.5 sacks). I also think NIU is strong, although undersized, at the linebacker spot with Tyrone Clark (82 tackles) and Jamaal Bass (76 tackles) on the outside.

Cornerback Rashaan Melvin led the Mid-American Conference with 17 pass break-ups, and safety Jimmie Ward led the Huskies with 90 tackles.

(Read full post)


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