|Florida State FB Lonnie Pryor ran for 134 yards and 2 TDs on five carries in the Orange Bowl. (US Presswire)|
The Seminoles outgained the Huskies 534-259, but thanks to some trick plays on special teams, Northern Illinois was able to hang around longer than it should have in the first BCS game for a team from the MAC.
Converting a fake punt in the first quarter and recovering an onside kick in the fourth, Northern Illinois pulled out all the stops, but it ultimately wasn't enough to overcome the talent disparity against Florida State.
Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch made some headlines, telling the Sporting News that he and the Huskies offense would wear down Florida State's defense.
Lynch could not back up his talk, completing 15 of 41 passes for 176 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He ran for 44 yards on 23 carries, and his 220 yards of total offense were 144 yards shy of his season average.
Florida State had a balanced attack offensively, throwing for 291 yards and running for 243. The Seminoles averaged 6.6 yards per rush but still threw the ball 38 times.
QB EJ Manuel was 26 for 38 for 291 yards and a touchdown while improving to 4-0 in bowl games in his career. Manuel also had a 9-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter that gave the Seminoles some breathing room with a 24-10 lead.
Senior FB Lonnie Pryor had 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns, accomplishing that on just five carries. He got Florida State on the board in the first quarter with a 60-yard touchdown run and put the game away early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard touchdown to make the score 31-10 after a Northern Illinois fumble, which was controversially upheld on replay.
When the game turned: Northern Illinois had just cut Florida State's lead to 17-10 in the third quarter, and Huskies coach Rod Carey called for an onside kick. Northern Illinois recovered and had all the momentum. Lynch dropped back to pass on third-and-8 from Florida State's 23-yard line. He scrambled to his right and threw an ill-advised pass. It was intercepted by Seminoles DB Terrence Brooks, and Florida State's lead was not seriously threatened again.
Highlight moments: Pryor's 60-yard touchdown run in the first quarter capped a four play, 95-yard drive for Florida State. It was the longest run the Huskies have given up this season… Northern Illinois TE Desroy Maxwell gained 35 yards in the first quarter on a fake punt from NIU's own 32-yard line on fourth-and-2. The play gave the Huskies their first first down of the game and led to a field goal… Manuel hit WR Rashad Greene for an 11-yard touchdown with 11 seconds to go in the first half. Greene went up, made the grab, and got his left foot inbounds for the score, giving the Seminoles a 14-3 lead… Pryor took a handoff and went up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that sealed the win. It put Florida State ahead 31-10 with 10:33 to play.
Significance of Florida State's win: Florida State improved to 12-2 this year and picked up its first BCS win since beating Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl to win the national title. The victory also improved the ACC's record in BCS games to 3-13. Ultimately, Florida State avoided some embarrassment by not losing in its home state to a team that some -- including an Orange Bowl rep -- felt didn't belong in a BCS game. While this season did not result in the national championship many around Tallahassee were hoping for, an ACC title and an Orange Bowl win were still steps in the right direction.
Significance of Northern Illinois' loss: Many were critical of the Huskies' inclusion in the BCS, and this performance did little to silence the critics. Northern Illinois was outmanned, and the talent gap was apparent. Still, the Huskies fought and even made the game a little interesting in the third quarter after recovering an onside kick. Northern Illinois has won at least 11 games in each of its last three years, something only Oregon can match in FBS. Carey will have something to build on next year as Lynch returns for his senior season.
(Video courtesy of the ACC Digital Network)
Top shelf performances:
- Florida State RB Lonnie Pryor: 5 carries, 134 yards, 2 TDs; 3 receptions, 17 yards
- Florida State QB EJ Manuel: 26 for 38, 291 yards, TD; 6 carries, 26 yards, TD
- Florida State WR Rashad Greene: 5 catches, 45 yards, TD
- Northern Illinois WR Martel Moore: 4 catches, 29 yards, TD
Numbers you should know: 1. Both teams combined for one third down conversion in the first half. They were 1 for 15… 88. Florida State K Dustin Hopkins set an FBS record for most field goals in a career when he made a 25-yard attempt early in the third quarter. It was his 88th career field goal… 82. Northern Illinois RB Akeem Daniels had 82 combined rushing and receiving yards, but he only touched the ball five times… 26.8. Pryor averaged 26.8 yards per rush on his five carries en route to Orange Bowl MVP honors.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from ACC bloggers Shawn Krest and Sean Bielawski, follow @CBSSportsACC.