MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – All season long, Northern Illinois’ offense lit up Mid-American Conference opponents.
The Huskies came into Tuesday’s Orange Bowl against Florida State averaging more than 40 points a game. However, NIU hadn’t yet seen a defense like the Seminoles’ unit, which is littered with speed, size and NFL talent.
NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch had a record-setting year, but Tuesday, he could only do so much.
Florida State got pressure with its big front four. NIU’s quarterback draw play, a staple of their offense all year, was stifled, as Lynch just didn’t have the space to run away from the Seminoles’ quick defense.
Lynch finished with 44 yards rushing on 23 carries, an average of 1.9 yards a carry.
Lynch was just 15 of 41 through the air with 176 yards passing, often scrambling one way or another to avoid the pressure Florida State was able to provide.
His long run of the game, a 22-yarder, came when he scrambled out of the pocket.
After the game, NIU’s junior quarterback, who had just finished up his outstanding season, gave credit to Florida State’s unit, the best defense the Huskies have played all season.
“It got frustrating at times. We tried to keep our composure. We had a lot of good stuff, we didn’t execute at times,” Lynch said. “… There’s a reason they’re a top-five defense in the nation. All the respect goes to them.”
NIU’s offense did have some success in the second half, when Lynch found Martel Moore for a touchdown from 11 yards out.
It was Moore’s fifth consecutive game with a touchdown catch.
The Huskies then attempted an onside kick on the ensuing possession, and converted when it was recovered by Paris Logan.
However, Lynch threw an pass that was intercepted by Seminoles safety Terrence Brooks on the next possession, ending the Huskies’ momentum.
After dominating during the Huskies final two wins of the season, Akeem Daniels had only three carries Tuesday, although he ran for 15 yards.
Moore had four catches for only 29 receiving yards going against the Seminoles’ talented top cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, who told ESPN after the game that he was skipping his senior year to enter the NFL Draft.
In the end, Huskies coach Rod Carey said it was a game of missed opportunities for the Huskies. He also called the Seminoles a well-coached, well-oiled machine.
“We made some plays, too, and we didn’t make enough of them,” Carey said in a terse postgame press conference. “That was the hard part. Games like this always come down to running the football and stopping the run, and we could not run the football well enough, and so we went to throwing it, and yeah, we missed some throws.”