MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – In the end, the Orange Bowl was straight out of "Macbeth," a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
When the gums were finished flapping, Florida State had a humdrum, 31-10 victory over outmanned Northern Illinois in a game that was as entertaining as Tuesday night bingo in Dubuque. The voluminous controversial verbiage was inversely proportional to the quality of the product on the field. It was just another bad BCS bowl game, and we've seen plenty of those before.
The Huskies were not embarrassed, but neither were they seriously competitive. The Seminoles were dominant on defense and maddeningly inefficient on offense. The crowd seemed bored. The TV audience undoubtedly felt the same.
And so all the talk – both pregame and in-game – was a vast expenditure of hot air that couldn't fill even a modest-sized balloon. A recap of the yap:
• There was the voluminous backlash to Northern Illinois' presence in the Orange Bowl – the first-ever BCS bid for a member of the Mid-American Conference. The criticism proved justified – the Huskies were not a BCS-caliber team, or at least our ideal version of a BCS team. In point of fact, NIU simply fell in line behind Connecticut, Hawaii, Cincinnati, Illinois and others who have proved over the years that they weren't good enough to play in an elite bowl but played in one anyway.
(Long live the BCS, which brought together several key elements of a stinker football game: an overmatched team; a team playing without the head coach who got it there; a scantly motivated favorite; and a long layoff.)
• There was NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch's incendiary quotes to The Sporting News about how he thought the game would play out: "They're fast, they're physical. But they haven't seen anything like our offense. … We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees – and then just keep pounding away." Lynch spent more time on his knees (and back) than he had all season, rushing 23 times for only 44 painful yards and completing just 15 of 41 passes for 176 yards. A critical Lynch interception on a forced throw late in the third quarter ended any chance of a Northern Illinois upset.
(That was followed postgame by a pugnacious refutation from new Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey, who declared that Lynch's comments were both taken out of context and untrue. That's a pretty tough trick – how do you take fabricated comments out of context? But that's what Carey said. Recently promoted from an assistant's role, Carey might need some reps in postgame news conferences next fall to gather a little more poise handling that part of the job.)
• There was the report from CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman Tuesday about a testy hospitality room exchange between an unnamed Northern Illinois rep and an unnamed Orange Bowl rep. According to Feldman, it culminated with the Orange Bowl rep saying, "You guys don't even deserve to be here. We didn't even want you here."
(Having seen a bowl hospitality room or two, I'm guessing adult beverages were involved. But even with liquid courage factored in, that startling exchange is just an extension of what sober people were arguing about for the last month.)
• During the game, there was Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher getting flagged in the fourth quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct after screaming at one of the officials. With a three-touchdown lead, it was poor form at best. But then again, Fisher's play calling for much of the night was poor form as well.
• And finally, there was this un-self-aware gem from some Florida State fans, who directed an "over-rated" chant at the Huskies late in the proceedings. That was rich, considering that no program has been more overrated than the Seminoles in the last decade.
There likely will be more overrating of Florida State come August. The Seminoles return a lot of talent for 2013 and keep recruiting like gangbusters, which should lead to yet another high preseason ranking. Swallow the hype at your own risk.
This season Florida State started out ranked No. 7 and rose as high as No. 3 in the AP poll and No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' poll. That's when the 'Noles did what they do, dropping a game against an inferior opponent. This year it was North Carolina State, which went on to finish 7-6 and fire its coach.
That Florida State – the talented team that dithers with an inferior opponent – was present for much of this Orange Bowl. The Seminoles piled up 534 yards but killed drives with a fumble, a missed field goal and a key red-zone penalty. They were 3 for 14 converting third downs.
The FSU offense was, once again, bailed out by an overwhelming defense that suffocated Lynch, who produced more than 4,700 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns this season. His 44 rushing yards were a season low, and only twice did he throw for fewer than 176 yards.
"The media made him out like he's the next superstar quarterback," Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner said. "We saw a lot of running quarterbacks this year."
Said linebacker Telvin Smith: "He gave us motive. He came out before the game and said that we were going to be on our knees in the fourth quarter. We are a tough defense. We play hard and that's one thing we take pride in."
Or maybe Jordan Lynch didn't say that. Or he was taken out of context. Whatever the answer, it was just one episode of more talk than action from an Orange Bowl that largely lived down to low expectations.
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