The Daily Nole

Column: Often Dismissed, FSU’s Orange Bowl Win Over Northern Illinois Was a Significant Moment

Mike Olivella/FSU athletics

At Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, Florida State will host Northern Illinois in a match-up of 1-2 teams. The contest between the schools will be just the second-ever, but most remember the first.

The prior meeting between the teams came in the Orange Bowl to cap the 2012 season. Florida State won the contest 31-10 against a group of Huskies, who held the title of “BCS buster” annually given to the top team outside the six major conferences.

The fact that Northern Illinois was the opponent sucked some of the enthusiasm out of the contest, especially from the Florida State fan base. The final score was lopsided, although the contest was just 17-10 in the fourth quarter of a game dominated by the Seminoles. FSU had more than double the total yardage of the Huskies with 534 yards of offense to just 259 for a Northern Illinois offense led by Heisman Trophy finalist, Jordan Lynch.

Lynch’s remarks leading up to the game about his intentions to wear down the FSU defense still seem to stick out more than five years later. As for the actual game, it was fullback Lonnie Pryor who stole the show with 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just five carries in what would be Pryor’s final game at FSU. Redshirt senior quarterback E.J. Manuel also shined in his final contest at FSU, passing for 291 yards and a touchdown in addition to a rushing touchdown.

Linebackers Vince Williams and Christian Jones each recorded 10 tackles to lead an FSU defense that held the Huskies to just 3.55 yards per play. Safety Terrence Brooks added an interception.

While many may scoff at the victory in hindsight and even at the time, the win was significant to Florida State’s resurgence as a national power. Sure, Northern Illinois had lost to Iowa and managed to edge Army, 41-40, but the victory followed FSU’s first ACC crown in seven years and served as its first major bowl win since the 1999 season. It had lost four straight BCS games prior to the win on Jan. 1, 2013.

The victory cemented the Seminoles’ first AP top-10 finish since 2000 and tied a school-record with 12 wins. It would also create momentum for the national championship season of 2013, serving as the second straight win during a school-record streak that would span more than two years and end at 29 games. The game itself began a streak of five straight major bowl appearances after no previous appearances since 2005.

Lynch’s Huskies were never able to wear FSU down as he proclaimed, but he may have helped to wake a sleeping giant. In hindsight, it’s hard not to acknowledge that the Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois was a lot more significant than just beating a team from the MAC.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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