For about a half, maybe even more, the Northern Illinois Huskies, the team many people, including some working for the Orange Bowl, said shouldn’t even be in the BCS Bowl, stayed in the game. But two turnovers ruined their hopes, while EJ Manuel and Lonnie Pryor had a proper send off to their College Football career.
No BCS busting, not even close. Jordan Lynch might be a marvel in the MAC, but going up against much bigger and faster defensive linesmen isn’t very easy, and Lynch had a problem getting into his usual rhythm. He finished with 176 yards on 15-41 passing, throwing for a touchdown and an interception. He was held to only 44 yards on the ground, as the difference in size and strength between the lines was just too hard to ignore.
That is what made life so easy for Lonnie Pryor, the senior full back who ran for 134 yards on only 5 carries, scoring touchdowns of 60 and 37 yards to open and close out the game at 31-10. EJ Manuel ran for a touchdown himself in the fourth quarter to make it a two-touchdown difference, while also throwing for 291 yards and a touchdown.
I’m glad I’m a Nole, and I’m glad the seniors went out with a bang. I always wanted to be MVP of a bowl, and I told myself that every time I get the ball, to try to make a big play. It’s not the national championship, but right below. Not a lot of teams can say that. We wanted to leave a legacy and change the culture in what we do here. You’re reaping the benefits right now.
EJ Manuel became just the second quarterback in College Football history to finish his career 4-0 in Bowl games. This was the first time Florida State played in a BCS Bowl since 2005, and it means they’ve taken the next step to get to where they really want to be – contending for the national title, where they hoped to be at this year.
The rushing numbers, and Lonnie Pryor’s career day, best explains the differences in quality between the teams, as Northern Illinois relied on trick plays to keep them in the game. Florida State outgained Northern Illinois 190-27 on runs inside of the tackles. Three different players, Lonnie Pryor, James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman, all had more yards between the tackles then the Huskies had total.
Pryor more than doubled his previous career high of 65 yards, going untouched on his touchdowns runs of 37 and 60 yards, gaining 129 of his 134 yards before contact. Florida State averaged 6.6 yards per carry, gaining 196 of their 243 rushing yards before contact. The offensive line was simply too big for Northern Illinois to handle.
Jordan Lynch’s disappointing performance also came from the fact that this was by far the best defense the Huskies saw all year. Florida State, if you forgot, are the second ranked defense in the nation this season. Lynch completed 2-of-11 attempts with an interception on passes thrown of 10 yards or longer. Florida State entered the Orange Bowl allowing opponents to complete 20.2 percent of their passes thrown 15 yards or longer, the lowest percentage by an AQ school.
It was fun for a while, and it would be unfair to say NIU didn’t deserve to be in the BCS Bowl. Not only the big and rich deserve to take up all the spots. They might not have stayed close till the very end, but didn’t make it too easy for Florida State, at least not for the first three quarters.