As expected, Florida State handled Northern Illinois. However, it wouldn’t be right to say Florida State handled Northern Illinois “with ease” because, well, Florida State almost never takes the easy route.
It’s frustrating to watch, really, and it has to be borderline torture for Seminoles fans. That’s insane when you realize you’re talking about an ultra-talented 12-win team, but Florida State has a knack recently for getting pumped for big games while not showing up for presumed wins against (sometimes far) inferior opponents. And there was no question from the moment the Orange Bowl began that the Seminoles were a bigger, faster and simply better than Northern Illinois.
So when No. 13 FSU struggled to put away No. 16 NIU for three quarters before eventually cruising to a 31-10 win, it was another “meh” performance from Jimbo Fisher‘s team. Yet it was a strange game in the sense that the Seminoles’ one or two-possession lead for most of the night felt much, much larger.
There were a couple of reasons for that. For one, NIU wasn’t able to do much offensively because man for man, pound for pound, it wasn’t winning any battles at any position — especially in the trenches. Florida State’s front four had Jordan Lynch running for his ever-loving life the entire time.
Secondly, upsets require some assistance. NIU had to play at the top of its game (which didn’t happen) plus catch FSU napping (which did) and catch a break or two (which most certainly did not happen). In fact, the Huskies were screwed out of a first down or two and a fumble that should not have been thanks to some of the worst officiating the college football world had seen since earlier that day in the Outback Bowl.
More than anything though, NIU was outmatched — just to indicate that point, fullback Lonnie Pryor was torching the Huskies’ defense for five carries, 134 yards and a pair of scores — and therefore unable to recover from mistakes as well as FSU could. The Huskies played hard and even mounted a mini rally in the third quarter. People can rant against NIU for not deserving a spot in the BCS — even an Orange Bowl rep reportedly jumped on top of that pile — but this team played the system just like everyone else, got rewarded, and showed up in Miami expecting to win. That’s about the most anybody could have expected.
Florida State is another story.
Granted, the Seminoles were stuck in a tough situation. Beat NIU and people shrug their shoulders because that’s what should have happened. Lose, and the embarrassment will be unfathomable. About the only thing Florida State could have done to break even was spear NIU in the heart and filet them by halftime. That didn’t happen. Even Lynch’s promise to wear down FSU’s defense last week, which now was apparently fabricated, didn’t seem to register with FSU; quite on the contrary, the ‘Noles seemed genuinely apathetic tonight.
That part’s at least a little understandable. Some of the play calling by Fisher was not. Between Pryor’s long scampers and James Wilder Jr.’s bruising, inside-the-tackles running, there was a point in the game where FSU was averaging over eight yards a carry. Yet, somehow, E.J. Manuel was informed that continuing to throw the ball was a good idea. Manuel didn’t have a bad night with 291 yards and a score, but he was inaccurate at times and was plagued by drops in others. It wasn’t until the end of the first half that the Seminoles converted a third down. FSU finished with three of those conversions on the night out of 14 attempts.
The problem is this wasn’t a one-time thing for Florida State. This team has struggled with consistency in recent years while being hyped way too much by hacks like us.
Not anymore. Not until the Seminoles prove without a doubt they’re “back.” They certainly didn’t prove it tonight.