Count Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher among those sports fans dismayed by the trash talk thrown NIU’s way after the Discover Orange Bowl bid came in Sunday evening.
“That team had an unbelievable football year. You look at the teams they’ve beaten, and the things they’ve done – they’re a great opponent. They’ve had a tremendous year,” Fisher said at a Tuesday news conference in Florida that also featured new NIU head coach Rod Carey.
“I don’t agree with (the negativity). It’s disrespectful to Northern Illinois, and we definitely don’t think that way,” he added. “We know what kind of opponent they’re going to be. We’ve watched the film. We know how they play, the things they do and the kind of football they play.”
Seminole players understand the incredible challenge they will face in trying to stop Huskie QB Jordan Lynch, Fisher said.
“We’re going to have to have a great team effort. The guy can throw it. He can run it. He has weapons around him, and we’re going to have to be very sound in everything we do. We’ll have to mix things up, give him multiple looks and do different things,” Fisher said.
“What an ‘expert’ says we don’t worry about. We’ve just got to look at the film, play our game and control what we can control,” he added. “We know one thing. Northern Illinois is going to be ready to play when they get here, and hopefully we’ll be ready to play, too.”
For his part, new NIU boss Carey – the two-year Huskie offensive coordinator just took the reins Sunday from former Coach Dave Doeren – said he and the team feel blessed and thrilled to head south for the holiday.
Carey also dispelled the opinions of TV talking heads: “Our team has earned this by going out doing what (we) have to do on the field.”
“We’re super excited to be a part of this Discover Orange Bowl and to have a great opponent like Florida State,” Carey said.
“They’ve got tremendous speed, tremendous size. They’re well-coached. Their schemes, offensively and defensively, are good. They are an Orange Bowl team when you look at them on film. That’s the best way to say it,” he added. “And it’s going to be a challenge for us. We’re going to have to do things right, and do what we do, and feel like we’ll have a good opportunity.”
He’s confident things will go right with Lynch on the field, and he’s just as assured that his quarterback can handle the big stage of a nationally televised New Year’s Day bowl game.
Lynch, a double-threat on offense, was named the MAC’s most valuable player of 2o12. He’s in the running for the Manning Award. His name entered the national conversation surrounding the Heisman Trophy.
Even the commentators who couldn’t find much good to say about NIU making the Bowl Championship Series were effusive in their praise for the Mount Carmel product.
“I think he’s the same player he was a week ago when we were playing (in the MAC championship). I don’t think that’s going to change. It better not,” Carey said. “He’s a tough kid. We run him, but he can throw it, too. But that doesn’t define Jordan. What defines Jordan is how he leads and the good teammate – and, above all, the good person – he is.”
Carey’s whirlwind weekend began last Friday night in Detroit, where the Huskies earned their second consecutive MAC crown in a double overtime thriller over Kent State.
Saturday, he got the news that Doeren was leaving for North Carolina State. Sunday, he got Doeren’s old job. Later that evening, the Huskies received their Orange Bowl invitation.
“It didn’t seem to happen fast; it did happen fast. Monday morning, it was time to get to work,” he said. “Sunday night kind of blended into Monday morning. It wasn’t that ‘wake up and feel fresh.’ It was, ‘Let’s go to work.’ ”
The new coach said he’s ready to guide the Huskies into the MAC’s first-ever BCS bowl.
“It’s like walking down the aisle when I was marrying my wife. You have those last-second thoughts, but those thoughts don’t stop you from doing it. It’s 10 years later, and I’m (still) married,” Carey said.
“I’m up here today, and I’m on the shoulders of a lot of great men before me at Northern Illinois and in my life. Dave Doeren would lead the charge of that,” he said. “I owe a lot to him and what I’ve learned from him these last years. He’s done great things with this team.”