FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Bright lights, big stage.|
This is what Northern Illinois aspired to after reeling off 12 straight victories, another Mid-American Conference championship and a No. 15 ranking in the BCS standings.
"They won't have stage fright, I can tell you that," NIU coach Rod Carey said of his team's historic appearance against Florida State in tonight's Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium.
The Huskies will become the first team from the MAC to appear in a BCS bowl.
"We're excited for NIU and excited for the MAC," Carey said.
"It's a validation of a lot of things we've talked about in the last couple of years," MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said.
The whirlwind of events has seen the Huskies win the MAC title over Kent State in overtime. NIU coach Dave Doeren then left to take over at North Carolina State. And Carey was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach as the Huskies received the controversial invitation to the Orange Bowl.
"Our concern is always being too excited," Carey said. "You try to take that away from them by focusing on the little things, on the details, and make it routine for them — muscle memory."
Carey said he has had several conversations with Doeren about this record-setting NIU team, and also about Florida State. N.C. State handed the Seminoles one of their two losses this season, 17-16 on Oct. 6.
(Doeren) has looked at the film and I've looked at the film, and (we) compared notes," Carey said. "We've talked a ton about it."
NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch has not been shy about expressing his confidence that the Huskies can pull off a major upset. Asked to describe his toughness, mindset and attitude, the Mount Carmel product said:
"Living in Chicago growing up, kind of blue-collar and always got a chip on your shoulder and (a guy who) always does things the right way and respects the game."
Florida State safety Lamarcus Joyner has taken notice of Lynch's bold statements.
"I heard their quarterback says they have an up-tempo offense and that they are looking forward to running us in the grass," Joyner said. "That's all I know about the offense, other than what I see on film. They've got some good football players. Otherwise, they wouldn't be 15th in the country or be in the Orange Bowl, so we are looking forward to the challenge."
Regarding Lynch's extreme confidence, Joyner said: "It makes football that much more interesting. When you put that bull's-eye on yourself, you have to be able to walk the talk. I respect it. I like it. I think it's cute."
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