The Northern Illinois University Huskies became the first Mid-American Conference team to defeat two Big Ten teams in one season and improved their record to 4-0 on the season with a dominating 55-24 win over Purdue Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Quarterback Jordan Lynch started the game by completing 14 of his first 15 passes, including 11 straight. He finished the first half with 16 completions in 20 attempts for 195 yards and three touchdowns as the Huskies led 27-10 at the break.
For the game, Lynch completed 18-of-25 for 207 yards and three scores and added 35 rushing yards on nine carries with one touchdown.
NIU forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, and scored on a 62-yard interception return by safety Jimmie Ward and a 99-yard kickoff return by Tommylee Lewis in the second half to thwart any chances of a Purdue comeback.
“I was impressed with our offense, and our defense played a great game,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey. “We are a good defense and played a great game today. Offensively, we executed our game plan. Jordan can throw the football and there shouldn’t be any questions about that. He hit a lot of different receivers. We got everybody playing time so it was a good day.”
Behind the precision passing of Lynch, Northern Illinois scored on its first five possessions of the game.
Kicker Mathew Sims earned the first NIU points of the game with a 44-yard field goal, before Lynch hit Da’Ron Brown from 15 yards out for the first of Brown’s two TDs on the day. Sims made it 13-7 with 13:39 to play in the second quarter and after the NIU defense forced Purdue into a three-and-out, Lynch hit sophomore Juwan Brescacin for 41 yards to the Boilermaker 26-yard line. Five plays later, the duo hooked up for a four-yard touchdown and a 20-7 NIU lead.
After Dechane Durante made the first of his two interceptions on the day to stop a Purdue drive at the NIU 21 and returned the ball 50 yards to the Purdue 29, Lynch hit Brown from 17 yards out for the 27-7 Huskie lead. Durante ended the Boilermakers’ next drive as well, intercepting quarterback Rob Henry in the end zone.
Purdue managed a 47-yard field goal before halftime, but the Huskies led 27-10.
Lewis quickly quashed any Purdue comeback hopes as he took the opening kickoff back 99 yards for a score. The Riviera Beach, Fla., speedster weaved through his blockers before getting into the clear and went untouched for his fourth career kickoff return touchdown.
The teams traded punts. Trailing 34-10, Purdue began a drive on its 35, but on the fourth play from the NIU 40, Ward read the out route, secured the ball, and tiptoed down the sideline before cutting across the field for the first interception return touchdown of his career. Ward also led the Huskies with nine tackles on the day.
“I’m happy for Jimmie Ward,” Carey said. “We said we’ve got to have seniors play like seniors and he’s playing his best ball. Our defense was opportunistic and made things happen.”
Purdue scored on its next possession with freshman quarterback Danny Etling hitting Cameron Posey from 16 yards out to complete an eight-play, 75-yard drive. The Huskies then used tailbacks Cameron Stingily and Keith Harris Jr. to ground out an 11-play, 67-yard drive that consumed 4:27 on the clock. Lynch went the final seven yards for the score and a 48-17 Huskie lead.
Lynch played the first drive of the fourth quarter before exiting in favor of back-ups Matt McIntosh and Drew Hare. McIntosh led a 47-yard touchdown drive and hit tight end Tim Semisch from 18 yards out for his first touchdown pass of the year and NIU’s final points of the game.
Purdue scored once more to provide the final 31-point margin, tying the biggest win by a MAC team over a team from the Big Ten Conference in league history.
Carey didn’t want to talk about history after the game as his thoughts already started turning toward the Huskies’ MAC opener at Kent State next Saturday.
“We’re 4-0, but in 24 hours, we’ll be 0-0,” Carey said. “I don’t believe in defending anything, we have to go out and get it and that starts [Sunday].”