MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Northern Illinois departed for Miami at 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 26.
The Huskies landed at Miami International Airport and immediately went to their first practice at Barry University.
Despite the fact the Huskies had to get up in the wee hours of the morning so they could depart for their Orange Bowl appearance, NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch said it was the team’s best practice of bowl week.
By the time NIU plays in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day, it will have been more than a month since its Mid-American Conference championship win Nov. 30.
Lynch certainly isn’t worried about the long layoff, and points to the team’s first practice to show how ready the team is for Jan. 1 at Sun Life Stadium, when the Huskies will take on Florida State.
“We came out and probably had the best practice of the week,” he said Sunday afternoon after the team finished its practice at Barry. “That goes to show you that our team’s focused, we’re locked in, and we know when it’s time to practice.”
Of course, NIU had an even bigger break between its wins in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game and the GoDaddy.com Bowl last season. The Huskies beat Ohio in the MAC Championship Dec. 2, and didn’t play their bowl game until Jan. 8.
The Huskies have also been able to spend plenty of time watching the Seminoles on film, and defensive end Sean Progar said Florida State’s offense, while they run it well, isn’t hard to pick up. He said defenses are able to see what the Seminoles are doing by formations and tendencies, and that Florida State doesn’t run a ton of plays.
“The film study I think really helps us. We’ve had a lot of time to walk through stuff and run through stuff at the same time,” Progar said. “I think a layoff, while it could be bad for some teams, I think for us it’s not like that because we’ve really put the practice time in and the film time in. That helps us.”
With the Orange Bowl nearly here, NIU head coach Rod Carey, who will be making his debut on New Year’s Day, said his team is dialed in.
NIU has had its share of fun this week, staying right on the beach at the Fontainebleau Hotel, but Carey said that since Saturday, the team has been 100 percent business.
“This is a reward, and it should be. We wanted to let them have some fun, and they did, and they were respectful,” he said. “They made good decisions, I’m super proud of them. They snapped back in. They’ve been going to work.”
Northern Illinois (12-1) vs. Florida State (11-2
When: 7:30 Tuesday
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens
Radio: 670 AM
Line: FSU by 13½