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

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

MIAMI (AP) Laughing and mugging for the cameras, the Florida State Seminoles happily hoisted the Orange Bowl trophy as a consolation prize, their disappointment about failing to reach the national championship game all but forgotten.

They figure next season will be different.

Smothering defense and two breakaway runs by senior fullback Lonnie Pryor helped Florida State beat Northern Illinois 31-10 Tuesday night.

The victory was the first for the Seminoles (12-2) in a BCS bowl since the glory days of 2000, when they beat Virginia Tech for the national title.

After the game, coach Jimbo Fisher's players wore T-shirts that read, ``Florida Statement.''

``We're knocking on the door,'' Fisher said. ``We feel very confident about where we're going and what we're doing. We've laid a great foundation here, and there's a great team coming back.''

While Fisher's roster is loaded with underclassmen, two seniors shone in the season finale. Pryor, voted the game's outstanding player, ran for a career-high 134 yards and two scores in only five carries, while classmate EJ Manuel threw for 291 yards.

``We wanted to leave a legacy and change the culture in what we do here,'' Manuel said. ``You're reaping the benefits right now.''

Junior defensive end Bjoern Werner - who has yet to announce whether he'll turn pro this year - led a swarming defense that stuffed Huskies QB and all-purpose threat Jordan Lynch for most of the night.

Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter to help seal the win. He said he'll forgo his senior season and join the NFL this year.

The 13th-ranked Seminoles won a bowl game for the fifth season in a row, but the stakes were higher this time. It was their first BCS bowl berth in seven years.

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

The 12-victory season was the first since 1999 for the Seminoles, the Atlantic Coast Conference champions.

``Florida State is almost back,'' safety Lamarcus Joyner said.

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,'' 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. Florida State totaled 534 yards and broke the school record for yards in a season with 6,591.

The Huskies were widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, and didn't do enough to silence the doubters. Trick plays in the kicking game helped keep them close until the fourth quarter, but when it came to Lynch, not much fooled a Florida State defense ranked second in the nation.

``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 came in 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.''

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Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: finding out who the Redskins are going to take as their No. 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

After much anticipation and countless mock drafts, Redskins fans will finally find out what's to come for the Burgundy and Gold in the upcoming NFL season. 

And we couldn't let you handle this news alone: So we've got the Redskins Talk crew hosting a special "Redskins on the Clock" live stream to address, analyze and hopefully rejoice over the 'Skins decision. 

<<CHECK OUT NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT>>

On Thursday, Apr. 25th, JP Finlay, Peter Hailey and Mitchell Tischler from the Redskins Talk Podcast, along with guests Travis Thomas and Trevor Matich, will be offering a live look into their thoughts and concerns surrounding both the Redskins' pick and all of Round 1. The live stream will be available on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App from approximately 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Redskins Talk Podcast "Redskins on the Clock" Special

CLICK HERE to watch the daily live stream of the Redskins Talk Podcast

When: 8 p.m. - (approximately) 11 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr. 25th 

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The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

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USA TODAY Sports

The baffling exclusion of John Carlson from the Norris Trophy finalists

The finalists for the Norris Trophy – awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability in the position – were unveiled on Sunday. Somehow, John Carlson was not among them.

This is the second consecutive year Carlson was a deserving candidate and the second year he will not even be among the top three.

The Norris Trophy is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association -- of which I am a member so I guess you can blame us -- but make no mistake, this is a snub in every sense of the word and a major oversight that Carlson cannot get the recognition he deserves.

Ballots will be made public after the awards are given out. Until then, we are not supposed to divulge exactly how we voted, but I will tell you that Carlson was in my top three, and he absolutely should have been a finalist this year.

If you had asked me prior to the 2017-18 season who the most important defenseman on the Caps was, I would have told you it was Matt Niskanen. I saw Carlson as an offensive-heavy player whose skills in his own zone were lacking. I had to eat those words later as Niskanen was injured in mid-October and missed the next month of the season. During that month, Carlson averaged 27:47 of ice-time per game, which led the entire league. He showed he could contribute offensively, defensively, on the power play and penalty kill. There was nothing he could not do.

Suddenly, the Caps’ top pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen was replaced by Carlson and whoever he was paired with. That continued into this season.

But while Carlson has reshaped his image in Washington, his reputation as an offensive first player instead of an all-around defenseman persists, and it cost him.

There is no set standard every voter sticks to when it comes to evaluating players for the Norris. You can look at whatever stats you want whether it is Corsi, Fenwick, points, PDO, defensive zone starts, high-danger chances for -- the list goes on. Here’s why Carlson was in the top three of my ballot: Not only did he play exceptionally well, but the Capitals relied on him more in more situations than any other team relied on a single defenseman.

Carlson finished the season ranked eighth in the NHL in time on ice per game at 25:04. Burns finished just ahead of him with 25:06. Both Giordano (24:14) and Hedman (22:46) played less.

Carlson was among the top 40 defensemen in shorthanded time on ice per game with 2:35, something only Giordano (2:40) could boast among the other finalists. Carlson was also first among all defensemen in power play time on ice per game with 4:05, significantly more than Hedman (3:19), Giordano (3:19) or Burns (3:17).

There is no situation in which the Caps are not comfortable putting Carlson out on the ice and no situation in which he is not expected to play heavy minutes. He has taken a bigger role defensively as the team’s top shutdown pair of Orlov-Niskanen has had a down year. Despite the heavier defensive workload, Carlson still managed to finish in the top four in points among defensemen with 70, a career-high.

I am not here saying that Burns, Giordano or Hedman are not deserving of being finalists. In fact, Carlson did not finish first on my ballot. It seems crazy to me, however, that he did not finish in the top three this season or last. All three finalists had strong seasons, but Carlson’s season was just as good and he was more heavily relied upon. He is one of the top offensive blueliners, but that’s not all he is.

Until he manages to overcome that reputation, which persists through no fault of his own, he will continue to be on the outside of the Norris race looking in. And that’s a shame considering how good he has been.

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