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NIU football seeing more orange than red after critics’ barbs

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Updated: January 6, 2013 10:08AM

DeKALB — Jordan Lynch’s most satisfying pass this year wasn’t one of the 353 he threw during games. The Northern Illinois quarterback chucked an orange symbolizing his team’s Orange Bowl berth at a TV when ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit called the Huskies’ BCS berth ‘‘a joke’’ on national TV.

‘‘That one felt pretty good. I was actually dead on with that one,’’ Lynch said, before continuing: ‘‘A few guys threw them. It was just instinct [after hearing] people disrespect your family.’’

Feel free to congratulate the NIU football community on the upcoming Orange Bowl appearance. Wish them well when they play traditional power Florida State at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on New Year’s Day.

Just don’t ask them to apologize for being the first team in Mid-American Conference history to be invited to such a prestigious bowl.

‘‘I’m not apologizing for anything,’’ said Joe Matty, executive director and CEO of the Northern Illinois Alumni Association. ‘‘We’re proud of what we’re doing. If people have an issue with us, they’re entitled to their opinion. We graduate our kids. We do it the right way. We’re just benefiting from rules that were in place.’’

NIU landing in a Bowl Championship Series game is by far the biggest athletic accomplishment in school history, but it has come amid a storm of controversy about whether NIU deserves to be grouped with college football’s bluebloods.

Herbstreit was the most outspoken of all, claiming teams such as Oklahoma, LSU and Texas A&M were more BCS-worthy than the Huskies, who won 12 straight games to clinch their second consecutive MAC championship.

‘‘I’ve never seen a program so ripped and embarrassed by so-called independent experts,’’ longtime NIU sports information director Mike Korcek, who retired in 2006, said of ESPN’s selection show, on which Herbstreit appeared. ‘‘I understand the value of ESPN and the national exposure to a mid-major program, but I just thought it was unfair and unprofessional. I don’t know if they were trying to drum up interest — it’s their [televised] game — and they wanted to create some controversy.’’

Herbstreit shouldn’t expect an honorary degree from NIU anytime soon.

‘‘It fuels our fire,’’ Lynch said. ‘‘It gives us extra motivation. There are always going to be people out there that don’t want us to make it, but they made the rules that way. All we did was win.’’

Rod Carey was promoted to head coach when Dave Doeren accepted the North Carolina State job Saturday. The former offensive line coach, who was promoted to offensive coordinator during the season, hasn’t begun studying the Seminoles on film but has seen enough to consider their No. 2-ranked defense ‘‘awesome.’’

The newly minted head coach said the debate about whether NIU belongs on the same field as Florida State is not a surprise. It happens every year. It’s just the Huskies’ turn.

‘‘If you didn’t think there would be negative comments about the BCS, you’re living in la-la land,’’ Carey said. ‘‘There always is. Someone is mad and someone gets dissed. That’s what makes this great. As flawed as this system is, opinions are what makes it go around.’’

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