Washington Football

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) 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.''

Quick Links

Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

While many expect Dwayne Haskins to be Washington's quarterback in Week 1, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to formally name a starting quarterback and has preached "pure competition" between Haskins and Kyle Allen.

The battle for the job has the potential to take an interesting twist in the coming weeks if veteran Alex Smith is able to return from the active/PUP list. In a media session with local reporters on Monday, Rivera said Smith is "going to be in the throes of this competition" if he's able to return.

However, even if Smith is healthy enough to compete for the starting job, Haskins believes he's the best man for the job. 

"All respect for everyone in that room, but I feel like I give us the best opportunity," Haskins told Julie Donaldson, Washington's Senior VP of Media and Content. "I look forward to showing it."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie but really started to show flashes of his potential towards the end of the season before an ankle injury prematurely ended his first season as a pro. Over his final six quarters, Haskins finished with 394 passing yards on a 72 percent completion rate with four touchdowns and zero turnovers. 

Since Rivera took over as head coach in January, he's challenged Haskins to take command of the job, and the quarterback has responded. Haskins has dropped close to 20 pounds this offseason and said he is in the best shape of his life. He's spent the bulk of his offseason training and learning from numerous NFL stars, most notably Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Odell Beckham Jr.

Although Rivera has yet to name Haskins the starter, he's taken notice of the 23-year-old's progress and has publicly praised him for it. In a media session last week, several comments the head coach made sounded as if he was ready to move in the direction with Haskins as QB1.

While Haskins and Smith may be directly competing with one another, the two have a strong relationship.

Haskins has said multiple times how much of a help Smith was to him as a rookie. On Monday, Haskins said he looks at Smith as a "mentor" to him.

"He's a great teammate," Haskins said. "Somebody in the meeting room that we look for answers and questions and everything he's been through in his long tenure as a professional quarterback in the NFL. He's someone I kind of look to as a mentor in that sense."

RELATED: MORGAN MOSES IS IMPRESSED WITH DWAYNE HASKINS 'KNOWING HE'S GOING TO BE NO. 1 QB'

Smith's journey is remarkable, and the fact that he's even close to playing after suffering the gruesome leg injury he had in November 2018 is already impressive enough within itself. And of the three quarterbacks, Smith is by far the most proven and experienced.

But Washington is currently in a rebuild, and Rivera has said multiple times that the 2020 season will be crucial in determining who he sees as core players on his roster. So, starting a 35-year-old Smith over Haskins, a second-year player who the team invested a first-round pick in just one year ago, wouldn't make much sense.

Yet, if Smith does end up being healthy enough to compete for the job, Haskins is ready to embrace the challenge.

"I'm extremely happy and excited for Alex. Having watched him train last year and him just getting into the position to try and play this year...I can tell how much work he's put in," Haskins said. "I'm excited for him. Hopefully he gets back to where he needs to be, and I look forward to competing with him and everything of that nature."

Stay connected to the team with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM NEWS:

Quick Links

Washington Football Team has noticed the Red Wolves movement from fans

Washington Football Team has noticed the Red Wolves movement from fans

The Washington Football Team has announced that it will not have a new moniker until the 2021 offseason at the earliest, but that hasn't stopped fans from giving their input on what the franchise's new name should be.

As part of the process for selecting a new name, Washington has asked for fans to send in their suggestions. On Monday, the team's official account shared a submission from one fan named Sarah, who is in favor of the name 'Red Wolves.'

"Once I saw it, I really fell in love. I really love the idea of Washington Red Wolves," Sarah wrote. "I have been a fan of the team since I was born, so that's over 26 years, and my dad has been a season ticket holder for a while. Can't wait for what's next."

Out of all the potential name suggestions, Red Wolves is the suggestion that has arguably gained the biggest following amongst the Washington fanbase - at least on social media.

In polls taken by NBC Sports Washington, the Washington Post and popular fan account formerly known as @RedskinsToday_, Red Wolves was the overwhelming favorite.

RELATED: MAKING THE CASE FOR RED WOLVES AS WASHINGTON'S NEW TEAM NAME

Monday's post from Washington was the fourth fan submission the team has shared on its official Twitter account. However, the post on Monday was a little different than the first three.

The suggestion from Sarah was the first post the franchise shared that suggested a specific name; the first three fan responses Washington shared were generic and didn't have one individual favorite name.

The fans have made their voice heard, as Washington has received over 5,000 responses of potential name suggestions. 

While this may mean a whole bunch of nothing (this is just Twitter, after all), Washington has now officially acknowledged the Red Wolves movement from fans.

And for those that desperately want Washington Red Wolves to be the team's name from 2021 and on, that's good news no matter what way you look at it.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the team with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM NEWS: