Florida State vs Northern Illinois: Postgame Grades from FSU's Orange Bowl Win

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIIJanuary 1, 2013

Florida State vs Northern Illinois: Postgame Grades from FSU's Orange Bowl Win

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    Florida State and Northern Illinois are finished with the 2013 Orange Bowl. The Seminoles defeated the Huskies 31-10 in Sun Life after getting off to a slow start.

    The Huskies fought valiantly, and the score was 17-10 entering the fourth quarter. Florida State scored on the first play of the fourth, and it was downhill for the Huskies from there.

    Throughout the game, Florida State found out exactly why NIU made it to the Orange Bowl: The Huskies are fierce, even when outmatched.

    Northern Illinois never gave up, and the Huskies proceeded to prove that a one-loss team from the MAC is certainly capable of winning a game like this.

    Florida State capped a great season off with a BCS bowl win in its first appearance since 2005. Click through the slides to see the complete postgame grades for the Seminoles.

    *Stats not from memory are from ESPN.com


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    Overall Grade: B-

    E.J. Manuel had a statistically good game, but there were some major issues throughout the game. He was off-target on a few of his incomplete passes, and he was stifled on third down. Overall, the Seminoles were a startling 3-of-14 on third down.

    Yes, the Northern Illinois Huskies are a good team, but Manuel certainly did his part in keeping the Huskies in the game. At the end of the third quarter, the 'Noles had a first-and-goal with the score 17-10 in their favor.

    After the fourth quarter started, FSU did not attempt a single pass. The 'Noles scored on the first and third offensive plays of the game. That's right, FSU scored twice in three plays as soon as they abandoned the pass. That's solid proof that the signal-caller is not your biggest asset.

    Manuel's rushing ability is what got him all the way up to a “B-.”

    E.J. Manuel passing: 26-of-38 for 291 yards and one touchdown.

    E.J. Manuel rushing: six carries for 26 yards and one touchdown with a long of 13.

Running Backs

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    Overall Grade: A-

    The rushing attack was potent, but it did have its share of problems. Three of Florida State's missed third-down conversions were missed on rushing attempts. Overall, the running backs did a great job, but a lot of the success came in the fourth quarter. At that point, Florida State was actively refusing to pass the ball.

    The great part about the fourth quarter was that it was FSU's highest-scoring quarter. That's a testament to how much better the rushing attack was than the passing attack.

    Lonnie Pryor (fullback): five carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 60.

    James Wilder, Jr.: 11 carries for 52 yards with a long of 15.

    Devonta Freeman: 14 carries for 30 yards and three receptions for 43 yards.

Wide Receivers

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    Overall Grade: B-

    The wide receivers didn't help E.J. Manuel out very much throughout the game. There were plenty of passing yards, sure, but most of the missed third-down conversions were pass attempts that fell incomplete.

    Even when the receivers would catch passes, there were more than just a few times that the receivers slipped on the turf and killed the play. Other times, Manuel would throw a pass nearly perfectly, and it would just harmlessly bounce off a receiver's hands.

    Statistically, the receivers did well, but they had trouble in the execution phase just as much as Manuel did. If this was a “B-” game, imagine what FSU could do a the “A+” level.

    Kenny Shaw: six receptions for 61 yards.

    Rashad Greene: five receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown.

Tight Ends

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    Overall Grade: C

    In the blocking aspect of the game, the tight ends did just fine. The big issue was that Florida State's coaches did not want to run the ball through their dominant offensive line. There was one instance when Manuel was flattened by an uncontested pass-rusher on a major third-down attempt. That attacker came off the edge, and he was lined up near the tight end before the ball was snapped.

    Nick O'Leary also made the 'Noles' biggest mistake of the game. He committed FSU's only turnover of the game, and he did it on what would have been a converted third down.

    Nick O'Leary: two receptions for 29 yards.

Offensive Line

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    Overall Grade: A

    The offensive line had a great game, and it owned the Huskies' defense for the entire game. Florida State gave up zero sacks to the Huskies and consistently blew holes for the running backs. Sadly, the majority of plays called were passes. The offensive line didn't get a chance to shine as much as it could have.

    That's saying something, because Florida State rushed for 243 yards on a total of 37 carries for an average of 6.6 yards per attempt. Imagine what the 'Noles could have done if they had relied more on the rush.

Defensive Line

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    Overall Grade: A+

    Football games are won and lost in the trenches. Florida State owned the line of scrimmage on offense, and Florida State's defense dominated the line of scrimmage as well. Late in the game, when Northern Illinois still had hope, the defensive line blew up the Huskies offensive line and made room for three sacks.

    The only defensive lineman with a sack was Demonte McAllister, but the line makes the room for the linebackers to find the backfield. The front gets credit for assisting in the other two sacks.

    Northern Illinois rushing: 32 attempts for 83 yards for an average of 2.6 yards per rush.


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    Overall Grade: A

    The linebackers played Duck Hunt against the Huskies. Northern Illinois was not out of the game until the fourth quarter, but the Huskies looked terrible on offense with the exception of four drives. Those four drives ended in a field goal, a touchdown, an interception and a fumble.

    Other than those four drives, the Huskies got toyed with like a cat batting around a catnip mouse. The linebackers ate them alive, and held them to 83 rushing yards for the entire game. Even the successful drives were mostly allowed by the FSU secondary.

    Linebackers accounted for two-thirds of the Seminoles' sacks, with Vince Williams and Nick Moody registering one apiece. This linebacking corps should be the envy of more than half the college football teams out there. They played almost perfectly against the Huskies, and they produced six three-and-outs.

Defensive Backs

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    Overall Grade: B

    The secondary was the weakness of the defense. Considering the Huskies only managed two scoring drives that yielded a combined 10 points, that is far from an actual weakness. It's a lot like being the bronze medalist at the Olympics. Sure, two people did better than you did, but you're still third in the world at what you do.

    The secondary gave up two plays that changed the face of the game for a while: a 55-yard pass to Akeem Daniels and an 11-yard touchdown strike to Martel Moore. That drive brought the Huskies to within seven points of the Seminoles.

    That was the only touchdown the secondary would allow. Terrence Brooks would pick Jordan Lynch off to kill the drive that NIU got from the successful on-side kick.

Special Teams

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    Overall Grade: C+

    Special teams had a rough day, but there were a couple of bright spots along the way. We will start with the bright spots:

    Dustin Hopkins set an FBS record for field goals made in a season at 88 after he nailed a 25-yarder in the third quarter.

    Cason Beatty had a fourth-quarter punt sail for 46 yards. It was his longest of the night.

    Now for the bad news. Hopkins missed his first field goal from the 50-yard range this season. Granted, missing a 50-yarder isn't the worst thing that can happen, but it's certainly disappointing to have a perfect record coming in to a postseason match just to have it ripped away from you.

    In the first quarter, Northern Illinois turned a fake punt into a 35-yard run that caught Florida State by total surprise. It was the longest play from scrimmage for the Huskies until the previously mentioned 55-yard catch by Akeem Daniels. There always has to be someone rushing toward the kicker to force him to kick the ball. If a fake punt works, it should be on a passing play, especially with a team as talented as FSU.

    Northern Illinois's on-side kick in the third quarter was executed perfectly. The FSU special-teams unit didn't even contest it. Nobody was even close to the kicker when he recovered it. Most of that failure was attributed to the coaches, though, and that will be covered in the next slide.


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    Overall Grade: C-

    The coaches stuck to the game plan, even when it wasn't working. It's understandable if a staff doesn't want to come away from the plan in the first quarter. It's less understandable in the second quarter, but it's still acceptable.

    When you enter the third quarter tossing passes after the passing game hasn't worked well for 30 minutes, you start looking dumb. You look even worse if your offensive line is flattening the opponent on almost every play.

    FSU's staff didn't want to stop passing the ball, and they only ran the ball late in the game to eat the clock. Guess what? The FSU rushing attack produced two touchdowns on the Seminoles' first three offensive plays of the fourth quarter.

    The coaches stumbled on the winning formula by accident, and that's just not right. They are making way too much money to be missing opportunities that big.

    On top of that, Jimbo Fisher made a horrible mistake in the fourth quarter that nearly got NIU back in the game after FSU was up by 21 points. The Huskies had just gained 16 yards on a third-and-17, and the Seminoles roughed the passer to hand NIU the first down and 15 more yards.

    Total yards gained: 31.

    Fisher yelled at the refs long enough for them to flag him for unsportsmanlike conduct, and that tacked on another 15 yards.

    Total yards gained: 46.

    That penalty put the Huskies on the Florida State 47 with a first down and more than five minutes left on the clock. The drive ended in a turnover-on-downs, but it was a horrible example to set as a coach.

    If he disagreed with the roughing-the-passer call, he should have said that to the refs once and left it alone after that. Take it to the player on the sideline or in the locker room, and tell him that call was wrong. Don't yell at the refs until you get flagged. That's simply a loss of control. He was 21-points up; it didn't matter that much.

    The Seminoles got in their own way far more than NIU did. Luckily, it wasn't nearly often enough to stop them from winning.