For Northern Illinois offensive tackle Matt Krempel, the Orange Bowl experience was kind of like being on a roller-coaster ... that crashed at the end.
It was a great experience, with a not-so-happy ending. Even so, Krempel hopes he can do it again.
“I’m kind of up and down,” Krempel said of his emotional state a day after the Huskies lost 31-10 to Florida State in the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. “But I look at the big picture. How many people can say they’ve ever been in a situation like that? It was everything that I imagined.”
Certainly, Krempel said his offensive teammates wish they would have done a better job in the first half when Florida State built a 14-3 lead.
“We just had a problem with executing,” said Krempel, a Columbus North High School graduate. “We had a lot of little details that were not crisp enough.”
Other than a couple of drives in the third quarter, the Huskies struggled to move the ball. But after scoring their only touchdown early in the third quarter, Northern Illinois came right back with another drive that appeared to be headed for the end zone and a tie game. Heralded NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch threw an interception, and the Huskies never got on track offensively after that as the Seminoles took control.
“I kind of think we lost the momentum after that,” Krempel said. “But I think we definitely proved we could play with them. Our defense played their hearts out.
“We know now that the only place left for us to be is to get to a BCS game ... and win it.”
Personally, Krempel said he felt he played the best game of his life. He went head-to-head against Florida State All-American defensive end Bjoern Werner and held him to two tackles the entire game.
“Physically, I wasn’t that tired after the game,” Krempel said. “But emotionally, I would have to say I was exhausted.”
For Florida State, it was another step toward a national championship. 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.”
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.
“Definitely the best defense we played all year,” Lynch said of the Seminoles. “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.
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.”