MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – When Jordan Lynch tucked the ball in and ran, he had Florida State defenders everywhere around him.
When he dropped back, he had no time. When he turned the ball over, it was costly. The Northern Illinois quarterback and the Huskies' offense had trouble getting anything going Tuesday night in the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. It was certainly one of the main factors which cost NIU in a 31-10 loss to Florida State.
"Yeah, they were fast, physical and well-coached. Definitely the best defense we've played all year," Lynch said. "They were always in the right spot at the right time and it seemed liked, and they played — they were just hungry out there. They got after it, all the respect goes to them."
The Huskies (12-2) finished with only 259 yards of total offense. While Lynch couldn't find anywhere to go or time to find an open receiver, Florida State (12-2) quarterback E.J. Manuel often seemed to have all the time in the world, going 26 of 38 for 291 yards.
Manuel's protection was huge late in the second quarter, when he dropped back, scrambled and found wide receiver Rashad Greene in the corner of the end zone with a 6-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. Greene barely got a foot in bounds, and the play gave the Seminoles a 14-3 lead.
Florida State added three points in the third quarter when Dustin Hopkins kicked a 25-yard field goal with 11:48 remaining, and put the game away with a touchdown run of 9 yards by Manuel with 14:56 left in the game and a 37-yard TD run by fullback Lonnie Pryor, his second touchdown of the game, with 10:33 remaining. Pryor ran for 134 yards on just five carries, and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
"I always wanted to win MVP of a bowl game, and I told myself every time I get the ball just try to make a big play and just do something," Pryor said. "I was blessed today. I can't believe it."
NIU scored on a 25-yard field goal From Mathew Sims in the first quarter, and an 11-yard TD pass from Lynch to Martel Moore in the third. A 35-yard run by Desroy Maxwell on a fake punt led to the Sims kick.
The fake punt call, on a fourth-and-3 from the Huskies' 32-yard line, wasn't Huskies head coach Rod Carey's only bit of trickery. He also had Lynch make a quick kick, and the punt landed at the Florida State 5-yard line. Then there was the onside kick after Moore's touchdown, which was recovered by Paris Logan.
"We're playing to win, and we saw some things, we knew we had it, and gosh darn it, kids executed it, and we were right there to do it," Carey, who falls to 0-1 as a head coach, said.
Unfortunately, the stops Carey pulled weren't enough against the bigger, faster Seminoles.