NIU keeps it close in first half, produces third-quarter excitement
Florida State running back Lonnie Pryor ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns as Northern Illinois saw its 12-game winning streak snapped, 31-10, by the Seminoles on Tuesday night in the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium.
Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel was 26-of-38 for 291 yards and a touchdown, NIU redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) finished the contest 15-of-41 passing for 176 yards, he was also NIU’s leading rusher with 44 yards on 23 carries.
“We made some plays,” said Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey. “But we didn’t make enough of them. That was the hard part. Games like this always come down to running the football and stopping the run, and we could not run the football well enough.”
After a Lynch punt backed the Seminoles up to their own 5-yard line midway through the first quarter, it took FSU just four plays to go 95 yards and open the scoring. Pryor went 60 yards for the touchdown to give the Atlantic Coast Conference champions a 7-0 lead with 5:28 to play in the first quarter.
Northern Illinois answered with a 25-yard field goal by junior Mathew Sims (Hannibal, Mo./Hannibal). It looked as though Florida State had forced an NIU punt, but a fake by the Huskies gave NIU a first down on the Florida State 33.
Freshman tight end Desroy Maxwell (Evanston, Ill./ Amundsen) picked up 35 yards around the left end on the fake.
On the next play, Lynch connected with sophomore receiver Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer) on a 25-yard swing pass to give the Huskies first-and-goal at the Seminole six. NIU wasn’t able to get in the end zone but Sims connected from 25 yards out to trim the Florida State lead to 7-3 with 1:14 to play in the first quarter.
Lewis finished the game with a team-high five catches for 61 yards.
The Seminoles increased their lead to 14-3 just before halftime. Florida State marched 82 yards in 10 plays to score with just 11 seconds left before the intermission. Manuel was 7-of-7 passing on the drive for FSU, capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene, giving the Seminoles an 11-point lead.
Florida State took the kickoff to open the second half and added a field goal to push its lead to 17-3. On the first play from scrimmage, Pryor ran for 31 yards on a sweep to move the Seminoles across midfield. Manuel then hooked up with Greene for 18 yards on a key third-and-four, moving Florida State to the NIU 20. FSU reached the NIU 2-yard line, but the Huskie defense held the Seminoles out of the end zone and Florida State had to settle for a 25-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal.
The Huskies answered with a 6-play, 87-yard touchdown drive to pull back within seven. Facing a third-and-15 and its own 8-yard line, Lynch connected with junior running back Akeem Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola) for 55 yards down the sideline. Two plays later, Lynch ran for 22 yards to give NIU a first down at the FSU 11-yard line.
On the next play, Lynch found senior receiver Martel Moore (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren) on a crossing pattern for the score to cut the score to 17-10 with 9:55 to play in the third quarter.
“We made some adjustments,” Carey said of the third quarter. “We had to. We didn’t do anything first half offensively. You know, we just let our playmakers make plays, and that’s what got us back in the game. We had a chance.”
With the momentum swinging toward the Huskies, NIU surprised the Seminoles with an onside kick. Redshirt freshman Paris Logan (Columbia, Mo./Rock Bridge) recovered the kick at the Huskie 47-yard line. Northern Illinois moved down to the Florida State 23 before a Lynch pass was intercepted by Terrence Brooks to thwart the NIU drive.
The two teams exchanged punts before Florida State pushed its lead back to 14, 24-10, on the first play of the fourth quarter. Manuel scored on a quarterback draw from nine yards out to give the Seminoles the two-touchdown lead. The FSU signal caller set up the touchdown score with a 13-yard run on a third-and-seven on the play prior to the touchdown.
Northern Illinois was on the move looking to answer before a Huskie fumble gave the ball back to the Seminoles.
NIU had just crossed midfield before the fumble, though it appeared the NIU runner was down before losing the ball. The play was reviewed and the call on the field was upheld, giving the Seminoles the ball near midfield.
On the second play following the fumble, Pryor went 37 yards up the middle for a Seminole touchdown to give Florida State a 31-10 lead with 10:33 to play in the fourth quarter.
Northern Illinois finishes its historic season with a 12-2 record. Florida State also wraps its season with a 12-2 mark.