The Daily Chronicle is looking back at the top 10 games of the last decade of NIU football. Today's entry, NIU vs. Florida State in 2011, is No. 2
Date: Aug. Jan. 1, 2013
Score: FSU 31, NIU 10
Why it was selected: The Huskies busted the BCS and played in one of the most high-profile games for a MAC, and Group of 5 team in history.
The Northern Illinois football team set out to prove they belonged with the big boys of college football, despite the fact that high-profile anyalysts like ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit were saying otherwise.
Fresh off a scintillating MAC Championship game victory over Kent State, the Huskies headed into the new year of 2013 to take on what was arguably the top defense in college football in 2012 in an eventual 31-10 loss to Florida State.
Still fresh in the mind of wide receiver Juwan Brescacin, who is now a wide receiver with the Calgary Stampeders, was the game itself. Also fresh in his mind is Jordan Lynch's reaction of throwing an orange at the television when ESPN television personality Kirk Herbstreit said that NIU's berth in the Orange Bowl represented "a sad state for college football" and "a joke."
“That’s one of my favorite moments as an athlete," Brescacin said about playing in the game. "Even going from like the whole draw and the rankings and Kirk Herbstreit saying that we didn’t belong in the Orange Bowl and Jordan Lynch’s reaction to that, it was a true underdog story and it was great to be a part of.”
Wide receiver Martel Moore said that growing up that he, a native Texan who was a Florida State fan, thought he was going to play for the Seminoles.
“Running out that tunnel, seeing the horse and everything, that just turned me up," Moore said.
Huskie players took in the crazed environment of 72,000-plus fans.
“We felt like we deserved to be there, which was a good thing," punter Tyler Wedel said. "The atmosphere there was unbelievable. It was so much different than the previous two years' bowl games."
The Huskies' Rashaan Melvin forced a fumble on NIU's first time on defense, recovered by Demetrius Stone, sending the thousands of Huskies fans who traveled to Miami into a cacaphonous roar, though Florida State did march 95 yards on its next drive to go up 7-0.
Neither team converted a third down until E.J. Manuel threw a touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining in the first half, pushing the Seminoles led 14-3.
A Desroy Maxwell run for 35 yards on a fake punt and a long Tommylee Lewis gain on a swing pass led to a Matt Sims field goal for the lone Huskies points of the first half.
NIU, two-touchdown underdogs, held its own most of the way, and trailed just 17-10 in the third quarter. But the Seminoles' superior athleticism one the day and for the most part, stymied the Huskies offense.
After a 55-yard completion to Akeem Daniels on NIU's first drive of the second half, Lynch took off for a long first down run, lowering his head through contact on the 22-yard gaim. He then hit Moore on a crossing route for the Huskies' lone touchdown, as NIU cut it to 17-10.
“It was unreal and when I crossed that end zone for the touchdown," Moore said. "I felt like we were going to take that to another level.”
“We never once doubted ourselves that we couldn’t beat them," Brescacin said.
The week leading up to the game itself was fun enough for the Huskies, many of whom recalled the festivities fondly.
“Some of the other guys we had a bit more fun with it than the guys who played in the game," offensive lineman Levon Myers said.
For players who might only have dreamed about the experience, living the reality is somethiing that puts them in awe still.
“It was just, it was unreal, playing in the Orange Bowl and you know how many decades and legacies have played in the Orange Bowl and just knowing you’re stepping foot in a BCS turf that you’re never supposed to be at," Moore said.
While playing in a BCS bowl game may not have been the expectation for new arrivals in DeKalb at the turn of the decade, living the reality felt right for Huskies who felt they deserved to be there.
“You don’t necessarily go to NIU thinking you’re going to get into a BCS bowl game, right?" punter Tyler Wedel said. "That’s not really the expectation, so when you saw it become then actual reality, it was amazing.”
With the expectations for the future of the program set thanks to NIU's incredible stretch to begin the decade, Huskie fans will forever look forward with sky-high expectations.
“We did what we were supposed to do and we’ll eventually get back there," Moore said. "The country’s eyes are open to NIU now.”
No. 10 – NIU wins on the road at Toledo
No. 9 – NIU defeats EIU at home
No. 7 — NIU wins at Nebraska
No. 6 — NIU pulls out win at Iowa
No. 5 — NIU races past Toledo
Today – No. 2, NIU reachses Orange Bowl versus FSU
Dec. 31 – No. 1