Florida State gave their fans- and the rest of the ACC- a bit of a start at the beginning of the second half on Tuesday night during their Orange Bowl victory. After going into the tunnel up 14-3, Florida State took the ball on the opening drive of the second half and drove it down to Northern Illinois two yard-line before their offense stalled out and they had to settle for a field goal.
While the kick gave Dustin Hopkins to all-time record for field goals converted by an NCAA kicker, it also gave Northern Illinois a bit of life.
On their ensuing drive, trailing by just 14 instead of down three scores, NIU drove 87 yards on six plays and got within a touchdown. Then they recovered an onside kick and the whole world started to wonder if Florida State was going to lose to the first one-loss non-AQ school to ever bust into the BCS.
Fortunately for Florida State their defense stepped up. With Northern Illinois on the FSU side of the 50 Terrence Brooks stepped in front of a poorly thrown ball from NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and ended the Huskies' threat.
From there Florida State's offense finally began to roll and the Seminoles pulled away from NIU in the fourth quarter.
Lonnie Pryor won MVP honors. He waited until his last game as a Florida State Seminole to finally break 100 yards but he sure picked one heck of a time to do it. Pryor connected on a 60-yard touchdown run in the first half and followed up with about 10 and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to seal things out on a 37-yard touchdown. He finished the game with 130 yards on four carries, including the two long TD runs.
Overall though, the final score probably wasn't indicative of close this thing was for the first two and a half quarters. Florida State pulled away in the end- ironically when Jordan Lynch predicted they would be buckling- but they never fired on all cylinders like their fans undoubtedly hoped they would headed into the game.
After listening to NIU chirp all week during the events leading up to the Orange Bowl, FSU fans undoubtedly wanted to crush the Huskies. And while the final score looked good, it wasn't the sort of beatdown most FSU fans probably went to bed dreaming of the night before.
Not to take anything away from Florida State, NIU gave them their best shot and it's not as if the Huskies weren't a solid team, but if the Seminoles had just hit on a few more plays they could have blown the doors off Sun Life Stadium and they didn't.
They did however shut down Jordan Lynch. Lynch was quite confident he was going to run around on the Florida State defense like he was playing on a game of NCAA Football on Playstation. That couldn't have been any further from the truth tonight though.
Lynch ended the day 15/41 for 176 yards, a TD and a pick, he also ran 23 times for 44 yards. Not his best game.
After making the boldest, brashest statement of the entire week, he heads back to DeKalb, Illinois with an important lesson in humility. Jordan Lynch actually is a very talented quarterback, one game doesn't change that. But he probably should have kept quiet last week, Florida State was aiming for him all day and made his life very difficult.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, will head back to Tallahassee having capped off just the third 12-win season in the program's storied history. They won their first ACC title in seven years, their first BCS bowl in 12 (just the second BCS win in school history). And they started off what Florida State fans hope will be a successful 2013 on the right foot with a win.
I'm going to head down to the field and lockerroom to get quotes and reactions. Keep checking back on the Herald FSU blog tonight for more updates, coverage and analysis. And Happy New Year!Follow @PatrikNohe_MH