MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Coach Rod Carey wasn’t ready to assess the impact of Northern Illinois’ first appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game when he was asked the question minutes after Tuesday night’s Orange Bowl loss to Florida State.
“Not a good time to ask me that question,” he snapped after the 31-10 whipping in Sun Life Stadium.
Nor did he care to talk about how he might balance the defeat with the remarkable season that had just ended with his team going 12-2, winning the Mid-American Conference title, and cracking the national rankings.
“Well, talk to me tomorrow and I’m sure I’ll have it in better balance,” he said. “I hate to lose, and I know these guys do, too.
“I told you when I first got the job, I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I’m upset.”
Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch opened up a bit more than his coach after the defeat.
Lynch was harassed throughout the evening, getting sacked three times in addition to rushing 23 times, an Orange Bowl-record for a quarterback. Still, he saw the experience of going against the best defense the Huskies had faced all season as something that would pay dividends.
“We stuck around with them for a little bit, and we competed with them and we played hard,” he said. “We had a lot of young guys on our team, and I feel like we can carry this over until next year.
“It’s just a learning experience.”
The major disappointment, he said, was not sending the seniors out on a winning note.
One of those seniors was defensive end Alan Baxter. The Buffalo Grove product closed out his career with two tackles, a disappointment for him, but he was able to put things in perspective.
“I’ve had an amazing career in my four years here,” he said. “We’ve been in a bowl game four straight years, and we’ve been in three (MAC) championship games and we’ve won two of them.
“It’s been amazing just making it to this level. It’s awesome. And it’s awesome for the young guys because the young guys will be able to see this and be able to improve next year when they get to this level, because they’re going to do good next year, too.”
Florida State’s offense, at least on Tuesday, was just a bit too much for the Huskies to handle.
“They’re very well-coached, and they have good size and good speed,” Baxter said. “They’re just a very, very good solid offense.”
Nothing the Seminoles did was particularly surprising, though. Florida State ran for 243 yards and threw for 291 in a balanced approach. Fullback Lonnie Pryor scored on runs of 60 and 37 yards, and quarterback E.J. Manuel threw for a touchdown and scored another on a 9-yard run.
“They came out and did what we expected them to do,” Northern Illinois senior defensive end Sean Progar said. “They ran a lot of stretch and power.
“They got a few big plays on us, and any time you give up big plays against a team like Florida State, it’s going to hurt you. They out-executed us at certain times. I think that was the biggest thing.”
For one brief period in the third quarter, when the Huskies recovered an onside kick after scoring their only touchdown, it looked as if they might have a shot at pulling off what would have been a stunning upset.
However, Florida State squashed that hope with an interception on the ensuing series, and the Huskies never threatened the rest of the way.
Disappointed as he was, Lynch thought back to the start of a season that saw the Huskies open with a one-point loss at Iowa, hardly an auspicious beginning to the campaign.
“None of this was even possible,” was how the thinking went, Lynch said, referring to the Orange Bowl. “No one was even thinking about this, a MAC school making a BCS bowl.
“I still want to say that we made our school proud, and we made the MAC conference proud.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.