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Harris: NIU Looks To Turn The Page After Orange Bowl Run

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Anthony Wells celebrates NIU's MAC Championship Game win with an orange. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Anthony Wells celebrates NIU’s MAC Championship Game win with an orange. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

By Adam Harris-

(CBS) Coming off possibly the most successful year in Northern Illinois Football history, new head coach Rod Carey has one message for his team: turn the page, the Orange Bowl is behind them.

That’s a tall task for a group of college players who recently played on the biggest, unexpected stage of their career, but Carey has been executing a plan all offseason.

“One little thing at a time. You can’t just all the sudden snap your fingers and waive your wand and everybody forgets about it. It’s always going to be talked about,” Carey said while addressing the media at NIU’s media day. “All the little things we did through the course of time since the end of the Orange Bowl, ’til now is how we turned the page.”

Little things like having last year’s juniors address the team as seniors immediately following the 33-10 Florida State Seminole beat down of the Huskies this past New Year’s Day. Another thing Carey and the NIU staff have done is forced their players to put away all the Orange Bowl swag.

We are not allowed to wear any Orange Bowl gear during workouts. I think as a team we have done well at that,” senior offensive lineman Jard Volk said. “Yes the Orange Bowl was a great thing, but we lost the game, and unfortunately, that didn’t go our way. That’s something we really want to forget about.”

Volk is obviously not content with an appearance in the Orange Bowl, and will use the loss as motivation to protect his star quarterback Jordan Lynch.

“We got pushed around that game,” Volk said. “That was the first time the whole season that happened. I think the offensive line has the most to prove, especially because we are all coming back this year.”

NIU’s offensive line is returning five starters and other contributors as well. The first game is in Iowa City, as the Huskies try to avenge a Week 1 loss last year to the Hawkeyes at Soldier Field.

Heisman Push

Quarterback Jordan Lynch finished seventh in Heisman voting last year, despite finishing second in the nation in total offensive yards and becoming the first player in NCAA FBS history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 1,500 yards in a single season.

But Lynch faces challenges playing in the MAC Conference and he knows it.

“I would say, coming from the Mid American Conference, my stats would have to be pretty ridiculous [to win the Hiesman],” Lynch said. “One thing I look at with the Heisman is I need to win games. I need to go undefeated. I need to go back to another BCS and finish it this time.”

The NIU public relations staff is ahead of the game this year, coming out front with a Heisman campaign for Jordan Lynch called “Lunch with Lynch.”

The senior quarterback will host weekly webisodes where he and a guest will talk for six minutes. The webisodes will appear on JordanLynchFor6.com every week.

Lunch boxes were even made up and handed out at the NIU Chicago media day.

Will all this hype over Lynch’s Heisman potential cause a distraction?

“No, I don’t think so,” Lynch quickly responded. “I don’t talk about the Heisman, or look at the lunch bags. I have nothing to do with this. This is all for you guys, it’s all for the media… One of the main reason’s why I like it is because it’s good for Northern Illinois and the Mid American Conference. It gets our name out there to the nation and keeps pushing who we are.”

Follow Adam on Twitter at @AHarris670 and listen for him on Score Overnights, with Les Grobstein.

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