Orange Bowl: The morning-after coda

USA TODAY Sports

How are we going to remember Florida State's 31-10 win over Northern Illinois? Depending on your love of sound bytes, it may differ.

No, it doesn't feel any better the day after. Florida State fans and players alike are rightly thumping their chests. The war of words was not over even when the game clock had enough: one FSU linebacker, after pushing Jordan Lynch in the ground for 60 minutes, had postmortem thoughts about the quality of Northern Illinois' quarterback and NIU's coach tried to do all he could to absorb his quarterback's criticism.

The way many will remember this game is that the face of NIU's team ran his mouth to a reporter, saying cocky things about how they're going to bowl over the Seminoles, and in return an irritated FSU pushed back tenfold.

What I'm going to remember, at least how I hope to remember this, is that Florida State eventually figured out how to score on the Huskies defense once they got out of their own way. They wore down the NIU offensive line. They weathered a series of game-turning plays in the third quarter and made some of their own. And Northern Illinois' little mistakes added up: execution, strategy and luck. Yes, that game last night may have been enough to beat UMass or Eastern Michigan, but I'd submit that Kent State would have beaten that team last night. It was a bad game for NIU, but late in the third quarter they were entirely in position to win.

That's how I hope to remember this game: the MAC had a B-minus performance against a superior team, and it showed. Words and sound bytes are easier to remember because they serve as the adhesive that holds together the narrative, but other than maybe a hard count, words really don't help you win or lose. It's not unlike how I enjoy Jud Heathcote's quote after Michigan State lost to BGSU in 1990: "I think you've just seen the last time you'll ever see a Michigan State team in a MAC gymnasium." it withstood the test of time and had a grain of truth for 21 years. Perhaps if NIU would have won, the quote living in infamy would've been this one.

But sound bytes come and go, and in the end the lasting memories are what happens on the field. The onside kick was righteous, as was that Desroy Maxwell fake punt run and Lynch's throw to Akeem Daniels for 55 yards. But NIU's final offensive play, a sack of Lynch as he was running backwards, was the final impression. Florida State just won, and resoundingly.

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