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Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 10

The SportsXchange

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- So much for happy endings to storybook seasons.

Heavily favored Florida State crushed Northern Illinois' hopes of completing a dream season with a dominating defensive performance in the Discover Orange Bowl on Tuesday night.

The final score of 31-10 didn't really tell the whole story, as the Seminoles, champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference, kept the upstarts from the Mid-American Conference pretty much under control throughout the warm evening.

Only in the third quarter, when the Huskies recovered an onside kick after scoring their only touchdown, was there much of an inkling that the Huskies might be able to pull off the unlikely upset.

The Seminoles' defense rose up, however, and stopped the Huskies (12-2) on safety Terrence Brooks' interception on third-and-8 at the Florida State 23-yard line.

The Seminoles (12-2) amassed 534 yards in total offense. Senior quarterback EJ Manuel threw for 291 yards, completing 26 of 38 attempts, and senior fullback Lonnie Pryor gained 134 yards on just five carries.

Pryor scored on runs of 60 and 37 yards in addition to igniting a drive to a third-quarter field goal with a 31-yard dash. He was selected the game's outstanding player.

Junior Jordan Lynch led Northern Illinois' offense, setting an Orange Bowl record for rushes by a quarterback with 23, but he finished with just 44 yards on the ground. He passed for another 176 as the Huskies finished with 259 yards of total offense.

Northern Illinois, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped, was trying to become the sixth team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to win a Bowl Championship Series bowl game in the last eight such contests.

FSU won its fourth Orange Bowl in nine appearances and its first since its victory over Notre Dame in 1996.

Florida State went to the halftime locker room up 14-3, but the gap could have been much larger.

The Seminoles compiled 328 yards in total offense, while their defense held the Huskies to 111 yards.

Florida State's first possession ended in the only turnover of the first two quarters, and the Seminoles converted only one third-down opportunity before halftime. The lone conversion occurred when EJ Manuel found wide receiver Rashad Greene in the corner of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left in the second quarter.

The Huskies went three-and-out on all but two of their first seven possessions, not including a one-play kneel-down to kill the final seconds of the half.

Northern Illinois had only four first downs before the break. The first of those came when Desroy Maxwell, in to block on punt protection, ran 35 yards on fourth down late in the first quarter. That play was immediately followed by Jordan Lynch's 25-yard pass to Tommylee Lewis to get the Huskies into position for Mathew Sims' 25-yard field goal.

The Huskies got their third first down via a pass-interference penalty late in the second quarter, then their fourth on Lynch's 12-yard pass to tailback Akeem Davis.

However, the drive fizzled, and the Seminoles took the ensuing punt and put together a methodical, 10-play, 82-yard drive to go up by 11 at the break.

Florida State scored its first touchdown on fullback Lonnie Pryor's 60-yard dash up the sideline with 5:28 left in the first quarter.

NOTES: The 25-yard field goal senior Dustin Hopkins kicked on Florida State's first possession of the second half was the 88th of his career. That's an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record, topping the 87 of Georgia's Billy Bennett (2000-03). ... Manuel was 21-for-28 passing in the first half for 242 yards, while Lynch was only 4-for-15 for 52 yards. ... Rodney Smith set a Florida State record with his first-quarter catch, marking the 39th consecutive game he has had at least one reception. ... The 11-point halftime deficit marked only the second time this season that the Huskies trailed after two quarters.

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