Northern Illinois junior quarterback Jordan Lynch said Thursday that the Huskies are using critics who say they can't defeat Florida State in the Orange Bowl as motivation.
Lynch and the Huskies made the improbable run to the Orange Bowl by winning their last 12 games of the season, including defeating Kent State in the MAC title game, and finishing within the top 16 in the BCS standings -- ahead of the Big Ten and Big East champions.
The Huskies are 13-point underdogs against Florida State.
"Yeah, a lot of people have been doubting us all year," Lynch said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "We couldn't beat Kent State either, that's what a lot of people were saying. We're just going to focus on ourselves and go in there and play within ourselves and everything should take care of itself."
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was one of the critics of NIU's inclusion in the BCS. When the Huskies were named to the Orange Bowl, Lynch threw an orange at the television set.
"It was just one of those things that a lot of people threw oranges," Lynch said. "People disrespecting our team, we're just going to use it as fuel in the tank. We're just going to focus on positive things."
The invitation to the Orange Bowl was just one of a number of exciting moments for the Huskies during a three-day span.
On Friday, the Huskies defeated Kent State 44-37 in double overtime to win their second consecutive MAC championship. Lynch rushed for three touchdowns and threw for one.
On Saturday, Dave Doeren notified the team he was leaving his position as Northern Illinois' head coach to become N.C. State's head coach. Doeren went 23-4 overall and 15-1 in the MAC in two seasons with the Huskies.
On Sunday, the Huskies watched ESPN together and discovered they had qualified for a BCS bowl and were headed to the Orange Bowl. A MAC team has never played in a BCS bowl.
"It's definitely an up-and-down weekend," said Lynch, a product of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. "To start with Friday, winning the MAC championship two years in a row, that's a great feeling. That's something hard to do in this conference.
"You know Saturday, Coach Doeren just leaving, a lot were saddened by that. But any time you go 23-4 in the MAC and win two MAC championships, it's kind of expected.
"Just to make the Orange Bowl game, it's kind of surreal. It hasn't really sunk in yet. We start practicing Saturday. I'm sure it'll probably sink in then. It was an up-and-down weekend, but our team is so mentally tough that we'll get through it."
Lynch has had very few downs in his season. As one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks, he even drew some Heisman Trophy consideration. He had 222-of-353 passing for 2,962 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns on 271 carries.
Lynch was disappointed he didn't finish among the top three Heisman Trophy finalists and won't be attending the ceremony in New York, but he's moved on.
"Any time you have a Heisman campaign and it goes down halfway through the season, you sort of want to go to New York and you kind of (want to) win it all," Lynch said. "It didn't work out. Now I'm just focused on the Orange Bowl."