MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – The Northern Illinois football team departed for Miami at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The Huskies landed at Miami International Airport and immediately went to their first practice at Barry University.
Despite the fact NIU had to get up in the wee hours of the morning so the Huskies could depart for their Orange Bowl appearance, Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch said it was the team’s best practice of bowl week.
NIU will have had more than a month between its Mid-American Conference Championship win Nov. 30 and the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Lynch certainly isn’t worried about the long layoff, and points to the team’s first practice to show how ready the team is for Jan. 1 at Sun Life Stadium, when the Huskies will take on Florida State.
“We came out and probably had the best practice of the week,” he said after the team finished its practice Sunday afternoon. “That goes to show you that our team’s focused, we’re locked in and we know when it’s time to practice.”
Of course, NIU had an even bigger break between the MAC Championship game and GoDaddy.com Bowl win last season. The Huskies beat Ohio in the MAC title game Dec. 2 and didn’t play its bowl game until Jan. 8.
Defensive end Sean Progar said Florida State’s offense, while they run it well, isn’t hard to pick up. He said defenses are able to see what the Seminoles are doing by formations and tendencies, and that Florida State doesn’t run a ton of plays.
The Huskies also have been able to get plenty of time to watch the Seminoles on film.
“The film study I think really helps us. We’ve had a lot of time to walk through stuff and run through stuff at the same time,” Progar said. “I think a layoff, while it could be bad for some teams, I think for us it’s not like that because we’ve really put the time in and the practice time in, the film time in. That helps us.”
With the Orange Bowl game nearly here, Huskies coach Rod Carey, who will be making his head coaching debut New Year’s Day, said his team is dialed in.
NIU has had its share of fun this week, staying right on the beach at the Fontainebleau Hotel, but Carey said that since Saturday, the team has been 100 percent business.
“This is a reward, and it should be. We wanted to let them have some fun, and they did, and they were respectful,” he said. “They made good decisions, super proud of them. They snapped back in. They’ve been going to work.”