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Florida State squashes NIU's hopes in Orange Bowl rout

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.

"We wanted to suffocate the air out of his short throws and put him in more traditional throws where we felt he was more uncomfortable," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said after his defense stymied Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch. "we jumped his short routes all night and tried to pressure him at every opportunity.

"I thought our players and coaches did a great job of execution against an outstanding offense and player."

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.

"I was trying to throw it low and away," Lynch said of the key pick. "I missed it inside. Whoever picked it made a nice play.

"I should have realized that wasn't the smartest thing to force a ball there. Just take the three points, and we still would have been in the game. But I forced a turnover, and they ended up capitalizing."

Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said the turnover was not the only factor in his team's loss.

"After that turnover we had other shots in the game," he said. "That wasn't the defining moment, but we certainly missed opportunities."

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.

"I always wanted to win MVP of a bowl game," said Pryor, whose previous longest run was 49 yards as a freshman in 2009. "I told myself every time I get the ball, just try and make a big play and just do something.

"I was blessed today. I can't believe it."

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 yards 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 a 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 after outgaining the Huskies with 328 yards to 111.

The Seminoles lost a fumble deep in Northern Illinois territory on their first possession. In the third quarter, they settled for a field goal after having a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line.

"No doubt," Fisher said when asked if he felt his team left some points on the field. "We moved the ball extremely well."

In the end, though, it didn't matter. Florida State's defense saw to that, holding the Huskies to three-and-outs on six of 13 possessions, with only Northern Illinois four drives ending on the Seminoles' side of the 50.

"Games like this always come down to running the football and stopping the run," Carey said. "And we could not run the football well enough."

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 a 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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