It's been a crazy week for the Northern Illinois football team.
Saturday, the Huskies took the field for the first time since their Mid-American Conference Championship victory in Detroit, holding their first pre-Orange Bowl practice at Huskie Stadium.
"It didn't feel real that we made the Orange Bowl until we stepped on the field," NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch said. "Now we're starting practice, watching film on Florida State. Just getting back out there and shaking out the dust. Just getting after it."
It was also the team's first practice with its new head coach, Rod Carey. NIU will practice at 4:25 today, but won't practice again until Friday due to finals.
Players have supported Carey's promotion to head coach during the past week. So far, having Carey calling the shots has been a pretty smooth transition for the team. according to Lynch.
"He's a natural-born leader," he said. "He's stepped in this spot really well and a lot of people have respect for him, so it's smooth so far."
Saturday was obviously a different experience for Carey. He joked how he went down by the defensive backs and was "lost."
"I haven't been down by the DBs my whole life," he said. "I know they're good at what they do."
Carey, who started the season as NIU's offensive line coach, will still be spending his share of time with the offensive linemen.
"Come on, you know me," Carey said.
Here are some more notes from Saturday's practice:
• In August, Carey was beginning his year as NIU's offensive line coach. On Jan. 1, he'll be on the sidelines coaching his first game as Huskies head coach.
It's been a pretty meteoric rise in the coaching ranks for NIU's new coach. Carey has always wanted to be a head coach, but didn't necessarily have an exact plan in place for when he thought the big day would come.
"I've got a simple philosophy," Carey said. "If you're good at your job, and you do your job instead of waiting for the next job, usually good things happen."
• One of the biggest surprises for NIU this season has been the offensive line, although the group took a hit when left tackle Tyler Loos suffered a season-ending leg injury in the Huskies' win over Toledo Nov. 14.
However, sophomore Ryan Brown, who came to DeKalb as a walk-on, has been able to fill in nicely for Loos. Brown had been rotating with Matt Krempel at right tackle, and Carey thought the sophomore played well against Eastern Michigan and Kent State.
"I think it speaks for itself," Carey said. "You don't win the last two games of the year with a new left tackle unless [Brown's] playing pretty good."
• NIU didn't prepare for its opponent in the Orange Bowl, Florida State, during Saturday's practice. However, the team has begun watching film on the Seminoles.
Florida State is No. 7 in the country in total defense.
"They're fast, they're physical and they pride themselves on being a good defense," Lynch said. "They love to be out there having fun."