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Before the Orange Bowl, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was quoted as calling out Florida State's defense.
Whether Lynch did or didn't doesn't really matter as far as the game was concerned, as FSU players very evidently took the remarks to heart and set out to do something about them. Here's linebacker Vince Williams after holding the Heisman candidate to 220 total yards, via the Orlando Sentinel:
He's terrible. I can't believe they tried us like that. They tried our life, man. ... He's not good at all. It motivated us a lot. That was straight-up bulletin board material. First of all because of how much success our defense had. We've been really, really good and nobody's ever said anything like that to us. So we were like, 'this man must have lost his mind.' What did he do that was good? He didn't do nothing that was good, we were killing him. That touched me, that hurt. This is my defense. This is me. That's me out there. He tried our lives, man.
Here was the quote Lynch was attributed by the Sporting News days before the game:
They're fast, they're physical, but they haven't seen anything like our offense. We play an uptempo pace. We play really fast, a lot of shifting, guys going back and forth each way. It causes a lot of confusion. As soon as we get that rhythm going, it's pretty hard to stop. We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees-and then just keep pounding away.
NIU coach Rod Carey denied Lynch made those comments, but also said that whatever Lynch did say was taken out of context. Lynch himself didn't deny the comments.
Coming into the game, one school of thought held that Northern Illinois would play the game of its life, while FSU might lack motivation against an overmatched opponent after another disappointing regular season. That was not the case, and at least one Nole chalks that up to Lynch's alleged quote.
As for whatever Lynch did say, perhaps we should note NIU as a program and an athletic department has no experience on a stage this large (plus it has an interim head coach). Think of how many times Jimbo Fisher and his staff have warned players about careful phrasing when dealing with national media attention, and think of how quickly FSU's media relations people would scramble if a quote like the one attributed to Lynch had been attributed to E.J. Manuel ahead of the Florida game. NIU had never dealt with prolonged national media attention before December.
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