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Florida State doesn’t brush off Orange Bowl victory over NIU

FloridState quarterback EJ Manuel (3) looks pass during first half Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against  Northern Illinois

Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel (3) looks to pass during the first half of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Northern Illinois, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

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Updated: January 2, 2013 12:59AM

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Those who assumed the Orange Bowl was meaningful only to Northern Illinois were mistaken.

Even with all its tradition — or maybe because of it — 12th-ranked Florida State entered Tuesday night brandishing a chip of its own after going through a relative down period in recent years.

“Sometimes you take those things for granted,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said after his team’s 31-10 victory. “I’m extremely happy for our players for what they’ve sacrificed and what they’ve done. They’ve put Florida State back on the map, put them back in the top 10.”

Florida State was making its first BCS appearance in seven years, dating to a 26-23 overtime loss to Penn State in the 2006 Orange Bowl.

EJ Manuel, the Seminoles’ senior quarterback, made sure things went smoothly for the 13-point favorites. Manuel passed for 295 yards and accounted for two touchdowns (one rushing) to close his college career at 25-6 as a starter.

Fullback Lonnie Pryor, voted the game’s Most Outstanding Player, added scoring runs of 60 and 37 yards as the Seminoles finished the season 12-2.

Manuel, joining Pat White as the only college quarterbacks to lead their programs to four consecutive bowl victories, carved up the Huskies with 242 passing yards in the first half.

Manuel led the Seminoles on scoring drives of 95 and 82 yards to build a 14-3 halftime lead. He was 7-for-7 for 83 yards on the final drive of the first half, flipping a six-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene 11 seconds before the intermission.

His 21 first-half completions were spread to eight receivers.

Manuel added a nine-yard scoring run on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 24-10. He finished with a career bowl ratio of four touchdown passes to no interceptions with a .688 completion percentage.

“EJ is the epitome of what you want in a player and a leader and a person and a student,” Fisher said. “He represents what’s right about everything. I don’t know what else the guy can do.”

Before Tuesday, the Seminoles’ most recent win in a BCS bowl came 13 years ago, when they beat Michael Vick’s Virginia Tech team in the Sugar Bowl to claim Bobby Bowden’s second national title.

They also were coming off a lackluster win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, which followed a home loss to in-state rival Florida.

That fact, along with recent comments from Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch promising to wear down the Seminoles’ defense, led to a spirited showing.

“It was a physical game, but we wanted it to be a physical game,” FSU linebacker Vince Williams said. “The comments [Lynch] made, they were noticed, but we did a good job not responding and not firing back.”

Up 17-3 early in the second half, another flat spell nearly cost FSU its cushion. The Seminoles gave up a 55-yard completion on third-and-15 from the Huskies’ 8-yard line, setting up a touchdown.

They failed to recover the ensuing onside kick, and Northern Illinois was driving for the tying score until Terrence Brooks intercepted Lynch along the sideline.

Fisher moved to 3-0 in bowls, all since replacing Bowden as Seminoles coach. That includes an 18-14 win over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl after last season, marking the last defeat for the Fighting Irish.

The Seminoles improved to 12-3 in nonconference play under Fisher, with the only losses to Oklahoma (twice) and Florida.

All-America defensive end Bjoern Werner had said the best way for the Seminoles to assert their dominance would be with an opening three-and-out defensive stand.

The FSU defense did Werner one better, opening with consecutive three-and-outs against the Huskies’ high-powered offense and slowing Lynch for most of the night.

“The media made him look like he’s the next superstar quarterback,” Werner said. “We saw a lot of running quarterbacks this year.”

Dustin Hopkins kicked a 25-yard field goal early in the third quarter, giving him an FBS-record 88 for his Seminoles career.

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