Naysayers said the team didn't belong in the Orange Bowl but NIU did give Florida State a game before losing 31-10 Tuesday night.
Players and staff got a warm welcome back to DeKalb, which they said was a repeat of what they found in Florida.
"It's kind of great to get all the fans down there and I think they were louder than Florida State at times and it meant a lot to us traveling all that way," quarterback Jordan Lynch said.
"Despite the score it's a once in a lifetime experience and I know personally with the band the kids were so excited to be there," drum major Zach Smith said.
It was the first trip to the Bowl Championship Series for the Mid-American Conference Champions.