Miami, FL – Lonnie Pryor rushed for 134 yards and a pair of long touchdowns as No. 13 Florida State captured the 79th annual Orange Bowl with a 31-10 victory over 16th-ranked Northern Illinois.
EJ Manuel completed 26-of-38 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown while adding 26 yards and a score on six rushes for the Seminoles (12-2), who were appearing in their 31st straight bowl game. It is the longest active streak in the country and second longest in NCAA history only to Nebraska's streak of 35 consecutive bowl appearances.
"We won a BCS title game. It doesn't get they better than that," Manuel said. "The biggest thing, we wanted to leave a legacy. A lot of the guys that came in the '08 and '09 class, we wanted to leave a legacy here at Florida State and change the culture of what we do here. It wasn't an overnight process, but you're reaping the benefits right now, and that's why we're here and that's why we won this game."
Rashad Greene had five receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
Jordan Lynch threw for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception as he struggled to complete just 15-of-41 passes for Northern Illinois (12-2), which was the first member of the Mid-American Conference to earn a BCS bowl bid.
Lynch also carried the ball 23 times for 44 yards.
"They were fast, physical and well coached. Definitely the best defense we've played all year," said Lynch. "They were always in the right spot at the right time it seemed like, and they played like they just were hungry out there. They got after it, and all the respect goes to them."
The Huskies were being coached in the game by offensive coordinator Rod Carey as former coach Dave Doeren had moved on to take over the head coaching job at NC State.
Florida State entered the second half holding a 14-3 lead and pulled further away with a 25-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins on the opening possession of the third quarter. But the Huskies quickly marched 87 yards in six plays on the ensuing drive to get back within 17-10 on Martel Moore's 11-yard touchdown grab. Akeem Daniels' 55-yard reception deep down the right sideline highlighted the drive.
Northern Illinois then recovered a surprise onsides kick at its own 47 and the Huskies converted a pair of third downs before Terrence Brooks stepped in front of a Lynch pass on a 3rd-and-8 at the Florida State 23 to deny the Huskies at least a field-goal attempt.
"I should have realized that it probably wasn't the smartest thing to force a ball there, just take the three points and we still would have been in the game," Lynch said.
The Seminoles could not capitalize on the turnover, but they were able to regain their two-possession lead on their next touch with an 8-play, 61-yard trek that stretched into the fourth quarter.
A personal foul on Northern Illinois during a 3-yard run by James Wilder Jr. moved the ball across midfield and Manuel later converted a 3rd-and-7 with a 13-yard run before the quarterback rushed into the end zone from nine yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Florida State a 24-10 advantage.
A pass interference penalty on an incomplete third-down pass kept Northern Illinois' ensuing drive alive and Lynch later converted a 4th-and-1 at the Florida State 40-yard line with a 1-yard push up the middle, but Da'Ron Brown fumbled after taking a big hit on an end around and the Seminoles recovered the ball at the Huskies' 42.
Two plays later, Pryor raced into the end zone from 37 yards out to put the game out of reach.
Northern Illinois failed to convert fourth downs in Florida State territory in its final two possessions of the game to deny any type of comeback.
Florida State started its first drive of the game at its own 17 and Wilder converted a 4th-and-1 at the Seminoles 41 with a 2-yard rush. But three plays later, Nick O'Leary had the ball knocked out of his hands after making a short catch and the Huskies recovered the loose ball at their own 34.
Northern Illinois could not record a first down, however, and Lynch's pooch punt after the Huskies lined up as if they were going to try to convert a 4th- and-1 was downed at the Florida State 5-yard line.
But the Seminoles drove the length of the field in just four plays as Pryor followed Greg Dent's 20-yard reception with a 60-yard touchdown run down the left sideline with 5:28 left in the first quarter.
A 35-yard rush by Desroy Maxwell on a fake punt during Northern Illinois' ensuing drive accounted for the Huskies' first first down of the game, and Tommylee Lewis' 25-yard gain on a swing pass set up a 25-yard field goal by Mathew Sims, making it a 7-3 game.
Florida State tried to counter with a 50-yard field goal by Hopkins on the Seminoles' first touch of the second quarter, but the kick bounced off the right upright to keep it a four-point game with just under 12 minutes remaining in the half.
The Seminoles were able to add to their lead just before the break as Manuel found Devonte Freeman for a 28-yard strike and Kenny Shaw for a pair of double-digit gains before Greene capped the 10-play, 82-yard march by just getting a foot down in the right corner of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown grab with 11 seconds left in the second quarter.
It was the first-ever meeting between the teams ... Florida State has won five straight bowl games and improved to 26-14-2 all-time in bowls. The Seminoles also improved to 4-5 at the Orange Bowl ... Northern Illinois fell to 4-4 in bowl games ... The Seminoles outgained Northern Illinois, 534-259 ... The Seminoles went 3-for-14 on third downs, while the Huskies converted 5-of-18 third-down opportunities.