By Dieter Kurtenbach
The Northern Illinois Huskies' foray into the world of the BCS might be less than 48 hours old, but that time has been as eventful off the field as it has been beneficial on it.
The Huskies have practiced twice in preparation of the 2013 Orange Bowl, but they have also found time to unveil new uniforms, party, and generate a bit of legitimate, old-fashioned bulletin-board material for their opponent on New Year's Day.
The epicenter of the controversy is NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, who, before leaving DeKalb, told the Sporting News that FSU hasn't "seen anything like our offense."
Lynch continued: "They're just like us. They're human, too. If you cut them, they bleed... We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees, and then just keep pounding away.”
The story published Thursday, and after the Huskies' afternoon practice, Lynch stood tall — though he was still drowned in a sea of reporters — refusing to back down from his comments.
"It's not cocky," Lynch said. "It's confidence."
Lynch's teammates and his new head coach had his back.
"What's he supposed to say?" NIU coach Rod Carey "'Hey, we're just hoping we get a first down, a yard or two?' I mean, come on. That's the confidence. These guys expect that. And we're doing everything we can to make that happen."
As for the practice itself, Carey said that it wasn't as sharp as the team's first in South Florida, which happened Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps the team played better after initially thawing out in the Miami sun. Perhaps that same sun drained the Huskies, leading to the second-day let-down.
"We did good, don't get me wrong," Carey said. "They know how to work, but focus was at times lacking today. I have high expectations for them."
Lynch's comments added some bile to the game, perhaps it was Wednesday night's unveiling of Adidas' specially-made uniforms for the Huskies that had the player's minds elsewhere.
The uniforms were a surprise and were introduced to the squad at its nightly meeting, eliciting cheers, hoots and hollers from the already-excited squad.
The Huskies will wear red pants for the first time, and the new white uniforms featured grey, beveled numbers and a red undershirt with the NIU logo and "Huskies" emblazoned on the sleeves.
That could have been in, or perhaps the Huskies had their minds on what was coming after practice Thursday.
Cheering erupted again at the team's beach party after practice Thursday afternoon. No doubt many of the players were comparing the weather in DeKalb to the bright, sunny, 76 degree day on South Beach.
The new jerseys, the beach parties, the ten-fold media attention — it's all part of the BCS lifestyle, one the Huskies are hoping to savor, even if it is ultimately fleeting.
"We worked for this," Carey said. "We wanted this and we earned this."
For Lynch, who is being revered as the Mid American Conference's version of Johnny Football, the downsides of playing in a BCS bowl aren't outweighing the positives.
"Ever since getting off the plane, I felt it starting to kick in more and more," Lynch said. "It's pretty big time. It feels pretty special. It was surreal at first, but it's starting to kick in now and it feels pretty good."
While Carey is no doubt enjoying the "business trip" as well, it is his job to impart perspective, and while he might not be able to speak from much experience — Carey was named the NIU head coach a few hours before the Orange Bowl announcement — he did his best to reduce the hoopla to a base.
"It's a football game," Carey said. "We're here to win the football game? Otherwise, what would you be playing the game for?"