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Northern Illinois soaking up first BCS bowl experience

| Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, 7:12 p.m.

MIAMI — Northern Illinois' football team knew it had arrived for the Orange Bowl when its plane landed Wednesday morning. But players knew they had arrived when they got off the plane.

Men in orange jackets. Media. Bags of bowl swag. And the buses.

“Our picture on the sides of the buses,” senior defensive lineman Nabal Jefferson said. “We were, ‘Ooh, look at that! Did you see that?' Just shocked. You're on the side of the bus. That was awesome.”

Said Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey: “They loved coming off and seeing their pictures on the bus. They came off and were snapping pictures of it, sending it, tweeting it, whatever they do now. Then, we got into the field and they snapped right back in and got to work. That's because of our seniors.”

That brings up that the 11-1 Huskies shouldn't be considered bowl bumpkins. This is Northern Illinois' fifth consecutive bowl game, if the first near an ocean (17 players haven't set foot in the Atlantic or the Pacific).

They played the International Bowl (27-3 loss to South Florida) in Toronto, a larger metropolitan area than Miami-Fort Lauderdale. They speak highly of Boise, Idaho, where they throttled Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl two years ago.

“We've been to a lot the last few years. These kids are used to this,” Carey said. “This one's a little different.”

In a major way.

“A BCS bowl is the best bowl you can get besides the national championship. It's different,” said Northern Illinois redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Lynch, sixth in Heisman Trophy voting. “Just the way we got greeted coming off the plane, usually that doesn't happen at bowl games like that. The (police) escort, they shut down the whole highway. That was pretty cool.”

“Cold” described DeKalb, Ill., on Wednesday morning — temperature in the 20s as the Huskies boarded their planes at Chicago Rockford International Airport.

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