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Orange Bowl 2013: Did NIU Hang with FSU, or Did Seminoles Let Them Hang?

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Orange Bowl 2013: Did NIU Hang with FSU, or Did Seminoles Let Them Hang?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Orange Bowl was strange. That’s the only way to put it.

Perhaps this tweet will create a better picture regarding the weirdness.

OK, then. I suppose I could dive deep into the many things wrong with this picture, but that would take thousands of hours and a football almanac. Instead, let’s just add it to the list.

For those of you who tuned in the entire time—and that’s saying something given the first half—you were treated to a bizarre 60 minutes of football. It was a slow-developing game, an even slower-moving tussle, and the first 30 minutes lacked, well, everything.

Last year the Orange Bowl was all about the blowout; this year, of course, it was about the possibilities of an upset. It didn’t look good at first.

Despite the best efforts of Northern Illinois and, at times, the worst efforts of Florida State, it was not to be. The upset seemed unlikely early on thanks to the Huskies’ ineptitude on offense, but the defense (and Florida State’s play calling) kept them in it.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The rout felt like it was on at halftime, although Northern Illinois battled back. After all, you knew #MACtion wouldn’t go out with a whimper.

Northern Illinois found the end zone in the third quarter, and they seemed poised to tie the game shortly after. Quarterback Jordan Lynch, however, then tossed a crucial interception, which flipped the game in an instant.

NIU hung around until the middle of the fourth quarter, but a long touchdown run from FSU fullback Lonnie Pryor put this out of reach. Florida State then put it in cruise control and took down the MAC darlings 31-10.

The game felt closer than that, although it really didn’t. Northern Illinois was in this one deep, but how in it were these Huskies, really? This is what we watched and wondered throughout the four-hour session, trying to figure out where both teams stood.

Again, it was long and strange.

The interception by Lynch really killed the momentum NIU had gained in the second half. They weren’t out of it at this point, but it was a huge opportunity squandered. Florida State was able to do enough late in the third and fourth quarter to cruise to a three-score win.

While the box score tells a story—many, actually—the Huskies made it interesting, at least for a while. They were successful on a fake punt as well as an onside kick, but couldn’t maximize either opportunity. Was this something they did, or did Florida State allow them to hang around?

The answer to both is "absolutely."

Make no mistake about it—Northern Illinois really struggled to move the ball with the exception of a few drives. Still, the offense looked better (still overmatched, but better) after halftime, and the defense did a nice job of bending but not breaking for a while. The Huskies gave up a lot of yards, 534 to be exact, but they also got some key stops on third down and really kept the team in the game early.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It was not pretty, but it was oddly effective. What made it even more effective, however, was Florida State’s offense.

Give Northern Illinois credit for keeping this in reach, but we would be foolish to not hit on Florida State’s role in this. The play calling, in particular was curious, and that’s being kind. 

For the game, the Seminoles averaged 6.6 yards per carry, and this average was watered down thanks to some late “kill the clock” handoffs in the final moments. Despite the effectiveness that they had, quarterback EJ Manuel still threw the ball 39 times.

This was a surprise, and FSU chose to throw the ball rather than take advantage of their huge advantage up front. Outside of some bizarre play calls, the offense also stalled on various drives. This was a theme we saw at times throughout the season, and perhaps an overall theme for the 2012 Florida State team.

Unbelievably talented, yet something’s not quite right.

This was on display against Northern Illinois, and despite the sloppiness, they were more than up for the challenge. The Huskies gave them a good fight, took advantage of some mistakes, but it was not enough. FSU was too big, too fast, too physical. The gap between athletes was discussed plenty leading up to this game, and it was on display. 

Northern gave it a shot, Florida State allowed them to take their shots, but it was not enough. It was a strange game with a not-so-strange result. How we got there is a different story.

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