MIAMI (AP) - Lonnie Pryor got around the left side for a career-long 60-yard touchdown run, and No. 13 Florida State led No. 16 Northern Illinois 7-3 after the opening quarter of the Orange Bowl on Tuesday night.
Pryor’s score capped a 95-yard, four-play drive for Florida State. The Seminoles came in as two-touchdown favorites against the Huskies _ who busted into the Bowl Championship Series on the strength of a 12-game winning streak, becoming the first team from the Mid-American Conference to play in one of college football’s biggest bowl games.
Yet even the Huskies acknowledged before kickoff that Florida State was unlike any opponent they’ve faced this season, and the Seminoles wasted little time suggesting that might be right. Pryor’s touchdown was more than twice as long as any other rushing play allowed by Northern Illinois this season, which came into the night having not allowed a run of more than 28 yards.
The Huskies got on the board with 1:41 left on Mathew Sims’ 25-yard field goal, a score set up in large part by Desroy Maxwell running 35 yards on a fake punt.
Pulling off that play was one two huge breaks Northern Illinois enjoyed in the opening quarter, the other being a fumble by Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary at the Huskies’ 35-yard line to thwart an early Seminoles drive.
Florida State outgained Northern Illinois 154-86 in the first quarter, and standout Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch _ who rushed for more yards than any signal-caller in NCAA history this season, 1,771 entering the game _ was held to 20 yards on eight carries.
Florida State was the game’s home team, which led to some unusual sights. First, the Seminoles were on the sideline usually occupied by their archrivals, the Miami Hurricanes. And secondly, Florida State also brought Renegade _ its white horse _ replete with a rider holding a flaming spear that was tossed into the turf, the traditional pregame scene when the Seminoles are at home.
And Florida State looked right at home early, too. Quarterback EJ Manuel perfectly executed play-action on third-and-1, and O’Leary was all alone when he caught the ball just on the Huskies’ side of midfield. He ran to the 35, leaned forward to brace for a tackle and wound up having the ball knocked away by Rashaan Melvin for the game’s first turnover.
But the Huskies went three-and-out for the second straight possession, and Lynch punted the ball to the Florida State 5 with 6:39 left out of a formation that suggested Northern Illinois would go for a fourth-and-short conversion.
The Seminoles were caught off-guard, but handled it with ease, thanks to Pryor’s burst down the left sideline.
It was the matchup that easily sparked more debate than any other in the Bowl Championship Series this year. Florida State’s trip to Miami was a lock after the Seminoles won the Atlantic Coast Conference _ but Northern Illinois’ berth was widely criticized by many.
“It’s our motivation,” Lynch said before the game. “We know what kind of team we are.”