NIU Coach Rod Carey, Players Express Excitement for Florida State Game


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Today is NIU Media Day (Chicago edition), which means it’s just talking season, and in talking season all topics are on the table. With that in mind, week four, Sept 22nd at Florida State, is the very definition of “circle the date” for the NIU Huskies.

Given the traditional power that Florida State is, and how high they will be ranked in the polls, the Seminoles will be favored. If you fancy a bet on college football, you can still find free bets available on huge games like these before the season starts up next month.

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“This is why you choose NIU, for games like this, the games like Iowa, the games like Florida State,” said NIU tailback Markus Jones, who is projected to be one of the Huskies’ main weapons on offense this season.

The trip to Doak Campbell Stadium is a rematch of the 2013 Orange Bowl, which was historic for several reasons.

It marked the first appearance by a Mid-American Conference school in a Bowl Championship Series game. It will also be the only appearance by a MAC school in the BCS, as the cartel is now extinct and replaced by the playoff system.

That was also the first game that current head coach Rod Carey was in charge at NIU, as he took over the reigns from Dave Doeren, who left to coach NC State. The then #16 Huskies were led then by quarterback Jordan Lynch, who would become the MAC’s first ever Heisman Trophy finalist the next season.

The then #12 Seminoles dominated the yardage accumulation battle, but led just 17-10 with 9:55 to play in the third quarter.


Eventually, FSU pulled away to a comfortable 31-10 victory on “a neutral field,” which was of course not neutral at all. The very next season saw the Noles winning the national title, and ending the SEC hegemony on college football championships.

“It’s two completely different teams and with all due respect to Coach Taggart, two completely different head coaches,” said Carey at 2018 NIU Media Day.

“And I’m not saying that in a bad way. He’s brand new, and six years later it’s not 30 days into being named head coach; I’ve been through some things.”

“In the Orange Bowl they did the tomahawk chop, but from what I hear the whole place does the tomahawk chop, so it’ll be different.”

Obviously, a lot has changed in those six seasons as Jimbo Fisher is now gone to Texas A&M, and Jameis Winston hadn’t even suited up for a game in college yet. Carey was asked how he has changed over the course of his time in charge of the Huskies.

“You got a beer and some time, I can tell you,” he joked.

“The biggest thing that I think I’ve realized in my time is the importance of an old adage: ‘players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’.”

The trip to the House that Bobby Bowden built replaces what had been a home date against Idaho on the schedule. This game provides a much needed financial infusion to Northern Illinois, and covers a short fall in the school’s budget.

We’ll have much more on that aspect of this game, how this contest came about, and more on the 2013 Orange Bowl from our media day exclusive with Carey, which we’ll run as the Florida State game gets closer.

In addition to FSU (ranked #13 nationally by Lindy’s, #18 by Street & Smith), the Huskies play two more power five conference teams in Iowa (#35 Lindy’s) and Utah (#28 Lindy’s) in the non-conference slate, with BYU, a program traditionally on par with the power five, filling out the non-conference roster.

“If I was drawing it up and I had the sole pen to draw up a season, I probably wouldn’t have picked it this way, with what we have as a schedule, but this is what we have, and I’m super excited about,” said Carey.

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“I really am, it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

In 2018 NIU is facing as strong a non-conference schedule as you’ll ever see.

“It’s crazy right. We’re attacking the weight room different, we’re attacking everything different,” said cornerback Albert Smalls.

“We know how good our schedule is, so we know how much work we have to put in for this year.”

Defensive end Sutton Smith, a consensus All-American who finished just 2.5 shy of tying the NCAA record for TFLs last season, has another reason to anticipate the trip to Tallahassee. 

“I’m actually a Florida State fan when I was younger, growing up, I liked them a lot,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to hear the tomahawk chop.”

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“They’re a great football team with a lot of great players, it’ll be a fun game.”

Smith is a converted running back and safety, and obviously, Florida State is as much DB University as any. Smith said he looked up to a former stellar FSU DB who now plies his trade in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.

“I was just a fan of their hard hitting safeties, and Xavier Rhodes was a corner and I loved how he played the game, He was a beast,” said Smith.

“They had a lot of good athletes over there and I loved how they played the game on defense.”  

Smith is also a friendly acquaintance of Larry Levy, a Boynton Beach native who was a walk-on on FSU’s ’14 national title team.

Jones is also looking forward to the atmosphere in Florida’s state capital. 

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“The tomahawk chop- that’s going to be nerve wracking,” said Jones. “It’s going to give me chills watching that.”

“It’s going to be a historic moment and I’m excited to live it up- because every kid wants to play at Florida State, so to get the opportunity to play there that will be a blessing, and I’m excited.”

Smalls is from the Miami area, so the clash against the Noles in his home state takes on another level of added meaning for him.

“Growing up I was a Miami fan, so I hate Florida State for real,” he said laughing. 

“It’s going to be a great game to play in, (with a) great atmosphere.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Sound Cloud and YouTube. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to any and all of his.

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