NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch was hounded into one of his worst games of the season. (US Presswire)
FLORIDA STATE WON.Thirteen years removed from their last BCS win, the Seminoles ended the drought in patient but ultimately decisive fashion, turning a burgeoning upset bid into a borderline blowout in the final quarter. Despite an occasionally sloppy first half and a brief NIU rally in the second, FSU dominated the box score and never trailed en route to one of its most satisfying victories of the last decade.
HOW FLORIDA STATE WON. It was far from the massacre many people seemed to expect when the matchup was announced, but at no point was there any doubt that Florida State was the better team. That was as true on paper as it was to the naked eye: For the night, FSU amassed a whopping 275-yard edge in total offense (534 to 259) and held the highest-scoring offense in the MAC nearly 31 points below its season average. Prolific NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch ended the night with just 15 completions in 41 attempts as a passer, and with a season-low 44 rushing, the end of an 11-game streak over the century mark on the ground. As a team, 259 yards was the Huskies' worst total since the first game of the season, by a wide, wide margin.
Offensively, senior quarterback E.J. Manuel bowed out with an unspectacular but efficient night, completing 27 of 39 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown, adding another score as a runner. The real star of the show, though, may have been the unlikeliest candidate on the field: Senior fullback Lonnie Pryor, who covered more yards on his first carry – a 60-yard sprint that opened the scoring in the first quarter – than he had gained in any previous game in his FSU career. Pryor added another score in the fourth quarter, a 37-yarder that put the win on ice, leaving him with a career-high 134 yards on just five carries in his final college game.
Senior FB Lonnie scored touchdowns on the longest and fourth-longest runs of his career. (US Presswire)
WHEN FLORIDA STATE WON. Just when it seemed the game may be slipping away at the beginning of the third quarter, Lynch marched NIU 87 yards in six plays on the Huskies' first possession of the second half, capping the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Martel Moore that cut the FSU lead to 17-10. Feeling the wind at its back, Northern Illinois then stunned the Noles with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, recovering the loose ball at its 47-yard line with a chance to tie the game.
The momentum lasted for a few more plays, just long enough for Lynch to move the offense into scoring range before committing his only major mistake of the night, a drive-killing interception into the arms of Terrence Brooks at the FSU 14-yard line. The insurrection subdued, Florida State clamped down on defense, added a pair of touchdowns for insurance in the fourth quarter and left the rest to the clock.
WHAT FLORIDA STATE WON. This was FSU's first appearance in a BCS game since the 2006 Orange Bowl, and its first win in a BCS game since the 2000 Sugar Bowl, when Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick clinched the only undefeated season in school history with a win over Michael Vick-led Virginia Tech. Unlike that team, the 2012 Noles will not be crowned national champions, but they will match the 1999 champs' school record with 12 wins in a season, and are likely bound for the top 10 of the final polls for the first time since 2000. Like it or not, with the vast majority of the lineup coming back, you can go ahead and pencil them in for another offseason of national championship hype in 2013, too.
From a conference perspective, it was only the ACC's second BCS win in its last 14 tries, joining Virginia Tech's win over Cincinnati in the 2009 Orange Bowl as the league's lone point of recent postseason pride. In the meantime, the ACC champ had lost three straight in Miami by an average margin of 25 points per game.
WHAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS LOST. The defeat is NIU's first since an 18-17 loss to Iowa in the season opener, ending a 12-game run that tied Northern Illinois with Notre Dame and Ohio State for the longest winning streak in the nation. Beyond the scoreboard, though, the night was a wash at worst: The Huskies showed up on the biggest stage in school history, made a few plays, kept it interesting for three quarters and did nothing to undermine their success as the reigning overlords of the MAC. Between the onside kick and a successful fake punt that led to their only points of the first half, they took chances and left everything on the field. Although they were outmanned in the end, the Huskies really had nothing to lose.