As much as he enjoyed that run to the Orange Bowl last season, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch wanted to make one thing clear — it's over. Time to move on.
"We got a new team, a new identity," Lynch said.
They also have high expectations after they busted the BCS party and elbowed their way into a matchup against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. That they lost 31-10 took some of the shine off of what was a fun story, but it doesn't erase the fact that they turned in the most successful season in school history.
Never before had a team from the Mid-American Conference landed in a BCS game, yet there were the Huskies on the big stage after capturing the conference championship and moving into the top 16 in the BCS standings.
Now, after going 12-2, the question is what they'll do for an encore. To that end, coach Rod Carey insisted the first thing was to put it behind them.
"We turned the page a while ago when we started training back in January with the morning workouts and the lifting," said Carey, beginning his first full season as head coach. "It really turned when we got back from the Orange Bowl. The seniors that were on the team that participated in that Orange Bowl, they left room at the team meeting and the juniors moved up to the front row. ... It's their team. It's their time. So we turned the page right there. It was hard, harder than it's been, because you've come off a year last year that was special not only to the community but to the university and especially the team."
With that in mind, here are five things to know about this year's team.
1. THE LYNCH-PIN: Of course, all talk about Northern Illinois starts with Lynch. He was the one leading the charge as the Huskies grabbed the spotlight, becoming the first player in FBS history to throw for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 1,500 in a season. Now, he's being pushed as a Heisman Trophy candidate heading into his senior season, his second as a starter. He set FBS records for a quarterback with 1,815 yards rushing and 12 100-yard rushing games, while throwing for 3,138 yards. He also had 25 passing and 19 rushing touchdowns. That doesn't stop teammates from having fun at his expense. "If we're in a restaurant or something, (we'll say), 'Oh, wow, is that Jordan Lynch, the Heisman Trophy candidate,'" offensive lineman Matt Krempel said. "Kind of point him out in a crowd."