Senior fullback Lonnie Pryor, voted the game's outstanding player, ran for a career-high 134 yards and two scores in only five carries. Senior EJ Manuel threw for 291 yards, while the Seminoles stuffed Huskies' QB and all-purpose threat Jordan Lynch for most of the night.
"We came out here and did what we had to do," Pryor said.
The victory was a consolation prize for the No. 13 Seminoles (12-2), who began the season with national championship hopes. They've won five consecutive bowl games, but the victory was their first in a BCS bowl since 2000, when they beat Virginia Tech for the national championship.
For 16th-ranked Northern Illinois (12-2), playing in a BCS bowl for the first time, the defeat snapped a 12-game winning streak. The Huskies came in as two-touchdown underdogs and fell to 5-28 against top 25 teams.
"We knew that they was going to play us tough," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "But our kids, it's another step in which we handled the big platform, and I'm very proud of them."
Pryor scored the first touchdown on a career-long 60-yard run, then ran 37 yards for a clinching touchdown with 10 minutes left. They were the two longest rushes allowed by Northern Illinois all season.
"I'm glad I'm a Nole, and I'm glad the seniors went out with a bang," Pryor said. "I always wanted to be MVP of a bowl, and I told myself that every time I get the ball, to try to make a big play."
Manuel went 26 for 38, threw for one score and ran for another.
"We just kept playing," he said. "Now we're going to enjoy ourselves."
The Huskies were widely derided as unworthy of a BCS bowl berth, and didn't do enough to silence the doubters. They were outgained 534 yards to 259.
The trick plays in the kicking game helped keep the Huskies close until the fourth quarter, but when it came to Lynch, not much fooled a Seminoles defense ranked second in the nation. And the Huskies' last attempt at razzle-dazzle backfired when receiver Da'Ron Brown lost a fumble on an end around at midfield, setting up Florida State's final touchdown.
Lynch came into the game leading the nation in rushing and total offense, and he threw or ran on nearly every play for the Huskies.
Florida State 31, N. Illinois 10
N. Illinois 3 0 7 0 10
Florida St. 7 7 3 14 31
FSU • Pryor 60 run (Hopkins kick), 5:28.
NIU • FG Sims 25, 1:41.
FSU • Greene 6 pass from Manuel (Hopkins kick), :11.
FSU • FG Hopkins 25, 11:48.
NIU • Mart.Moore 11 pass from Lynch (Sims kick), 9:55.
FSU • Manuel 9 run (Hopkins kick), 14:56.
FSU • Pryor 37 run (Hopkins kick), 10:33.
Attendance • 72,073.
First downs 17 23
Rushes-yards 32-83 37-243
Passing 176 291
Comp-Att-Int 15-41-1 26-38-0
Return Yards 6 20
Punts-Avg. 7-42.1 5-36.8
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 5-40 8-96
Time of Possession 25:52 34:08
Rushing • N. Illinois, Lynch 23-44, Maxwell 1-35, Daniels 3-15,
Lewis 2-9, J.Wells 1-1, Team 1-(minus 1), D.Brown 1-(minus 20).
Florida St., Pryor 5-134, Wilder 11-52, Freeman 14-30, Manuel 6-26,
Passing • N. Illinois, Lynch 15-41-1-176. Florida St.,
Receiving • N. Illinois, Lewis 5-61, Mart.Moore 4-29, Ashford 4-19,
Daniels 2-67. Florida St., Shaw 6-61, Greene 5-45, Freeman 3-43, Dent 3-42, R.Smith 3-41, Pryor 3-17, O'Leary 2-29, Benjamin 1-13.