Anxious to avoid an Orange Bowl shocker, the Florida State Seminoles kept getting tricked.
An onside kick fooled them, as did a fake punt, and a pooch punt by Northern Illinois’ star quarterback.
But the final score was no surprise. Florida State had too much speed and depth for the Huskies and pulled away for a 31-10 victory Tuesday night.
Senior fullback Lonnie Pryor, voted the game’s outstanding player, ran for a career-high 134 yards and two scores in only five carries. Senior EJ Manuel threw for 291 yards, while the Seminoles stuffed Huskies’ QB and all-purpose threat Jordan Lynch for most of the night.
“I’m glad I’m a Nole, and I’m glad the seniors went out with a bang,” Pryor said. “I always wanted to be MVP of a bowl, and I told myself that every time I get the ball, to try to make a big play.”
The victory was a consolation prize for the No. 13 Seminoles (12-2), who began the season with national championship hopes. They’ve won five consecutive bowl games, but the victory was their first in a BCS bowl since 2000, when they beat Virginia Tech for the national title.
After the game, the Seminoles wore T-shirts that read, “Florida Statement.”
“It’s not the national championship, but right below,” defensive end Bjoern Werner said. “Not a lot of teams can say that.”
For 16th-ranked Northern Illinois (12-2), playing in a BCS bowl for the first time, the defeat snapped a 12-game winning streak. The Huskies came in as two-touchdown underdogs and fell to 5-28 against top 25 teams.
“We knew that they were going to play us tough,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “But our kids, it’s another step in which we handled the big platform, and I’m very proud of them.”
Pryor scored the first touchdown on a career-long 60-yard run, then ran 37 yards for a clinching touchdown with 10 minutes left. They were the two longest rushes allowed by Northern Illinois all season.
Manuel went 26 for 38, threw for one score and ran for another.
“We just kept playing,” he said. “Now we’re going to enjoy ourselves.”
The Huskies were widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, and didn’t do enough to silence the doubters. They were outgained 534 yards to 259.
The trick plays in the kicking game helped keep the Huskies close until the fourth quarter, but when it came to Lynch, not much fooled a Florida State defense ranked second in the nation.