Capitals

No. 13 FSU beats No. 16 NIU 31-10 in Orange Bowl

201301011801649089918-p2.jpeg

No. 13 FSU beats No. 16 NIU 31-10 in Orange Bowl

MIAMI (AP) Anxious to avoid an Orange Bowl shocker, the Florida State Seminoles kept getting tricked.

An onside kick fooled them, as did a fake punt, and a pooch punt by Northern Illinois' star quarterback.

But the final score was no surprise. Florida State had too much speed and depth for the Huskies and pulled away for a 31-10 victory Tuesday night.

Senior fullback Lonnie Pryor, voted the game's outstanding player, ran for a career-high 134 yards and two scores in only five carries. Senior EJ Manuel threw for 291 yards, while the Seminoles stuffed Huskies' QB and all-purpose threat Jordan Lynch for most of the night.

``I'm glad I'm a Nole, and I'm glad the seniors went out with a bang,'' Pryor said. ``I always wanted to be MVP of a bowl, and I told myself that every time I get the ball, to try to make a big play.''

The victory was a consolation prize for the No. 13 Seminoles (12-2), who began the season with national championship hopes. They've won five consecutive bowl games, but the victory was their first in a BCS bowl since 2000, when they beat Virginia Tech for the national title.

After the game, the Seminoles wore T-shirts that read, ``Florida Statement.''

``It's not the national championship, but right below,'' defensive end Bjoern Werner said. ``Not a lot of teams can say that.''

For 16th-ranked Northern Illinois (12-2), playing in a BCS bowl for the first time, the defeat snapped a 12-game winning streak. The Huskies came in as two-touchdown underdogs and fell to 5-28 against top 25 teams.

``We knew that they were going to play us tough,'' Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. ``But our kids, it's another step in which we handled the big platform, and I'm very proud of them.''

Pryor scored the first touchdown on a career-long 60-yard run, then ran 37 yards for a clinching touchdown with 10 minutes left. They were the two longest rushes allowed by Northern Illinois all season.

Manuel went 26 for 38, threw for one score and ran for another.

``We just kept playing,'' he said. ``Now we're going to enjoy ourselves.''

The Huskies were widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, and didn't do enough to silence the doubters. They were outgained 534 yards to 259.

The trick plays in the kicking game helped keep the Huskies close until the fourth quarter, but when it came to Lynch, not much fooled a Florida State defense ranked second in the nation. And the Huskies' last attempt at razzle-dazzle backfired when receiver Da'Ron Brown lost a fumble on an end around at midfield, setting up the Seminoles' final touchdown.

``Definitely the best defense we played all year,'' Lynch said. ``They were always in the right spot at the right time, it seemed like. They were hungry out there.''

Lynch came into the game leading the nation in rushing and total offense, and he threw or ran on nearly every play for the Huskies. But he completed only 15 of 41 attempts for 176 yards, and carried 23 times for 44 yards.

The junior became the first player in NCAA history to surpass 3,000 yards passing and 1,500 rushing in a season.

After the Huskies' lone touchdown cut their deficit to 17-10 in the third quarter, they recovered an onside kick, and Lynch moved them to the Florida State 23. But he was flushed from the pocket on third down and threw an ill-advised pass that Terrence Brooks intercepted.

``It probably wasn't the smartest thing to force the ball there,'' Lynch said.

The loss was Rod Carey's debut as the Huskies' coach. He was promoted to replace Dave Doeren, who took the North Carolina State job after the regular season.

``I'm upset,'' Carey said. ``Florida State is a well-oiled machine. They beat us, no doubt. That doesn't change the fact I don't like to lose.''

Doeren watched the game from the stands.

When Florida State dropped no one deep defending an early fourth-and-1 situation, Lynch pooched a 52-yard punt that rolled dead at the 5. The poor field position didn't faze the Seminoles, who scored in four plays, the last when Pryor broke into the clear near midfield and outran the Huskies' secondary.

With the Seminoles up only 7-3, Manuel moved them 82 yards in the final 3:57 of the first half for another touchdown with 11 seconds left. He threw on the move for a 6-yard score to Rashad Greene, who managed to get one foot inbounds before he tumbled out of the end zone.

Desroy Maxwell took a short snap on a fake punt on fourth and 3 and ran 35 yards to set up a field goal for the Huskies' first score.

``You've got to play to win,'' Carey said of the trick plays. ``We saw some things. We knew we had it. Gosh darn, our kids executed it.''

But his team's offense struggled to sustain anything. Lynch passed, ran or punted on 28 of 29 plays for Northern Illinois' offense in the first half, and the Seminoles were geared to stop him.

He finally got the Huskies going in the third quarter, when they mounted an 87-yard touchdown drive. He threw deep to Akeem Daniels for 55 yards, then hit Martel Moore for an 11-yard score.

That was it for Northern Illinois, though. This was the Seminoles' night.

``We wanted to leave a legacy and change the culture in what we do here,'' said Manuel, who became only the second quarterback to go 4-0 in bowl games, joining West Virginia's Pat White. ``You're reaping the benefits right now.''

Quick Links

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

 

CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST:

Quick Links

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

capture_vegas.png
USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.