Lynch, Huskies Battle For History Against Struggling Purdue
By Jon Coffey
When Northern Illinois suits up against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., this Saturday, the Huskies will be searching for their fourth win in as many games and their second victory over a Big Ten school this season.
If NIU were to beat Purdue this weekend, it would be the first time in the school’s history that the football team defeated two Big Ten opponents in the same season.
The Huskies are 4-35-1 all-time versus Big Ten teams.
It would also be the first time since 2003 that NIU won all of its non-conference games in a season.
After a last-minute game-winning field goal against Iowa to start the year, counting as the fourth win over a Big Ten team, Northern Illinois boosted its prospects on several accounts for the rest of the 2013 season.
First, the Huskies' one blemish in an 11-1 campaign last year came at Soldier Field against the Hawkeyes. NIU went on to win 12 straight, including the MAC championship game, before losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. With a win over Iowa to begin this year, the Huskies now have a real chance at going undefeated in the regular season, especially if they can get a win against the Boilermakers before entering their MAC schedule.
Second, going undefeated in non-conference play will all but certainly get NIU into the AP Top 25 at some point this year. I say that because outside of Toledo, it doesn’t look like anyone else on the Huskies’ schedule will pose much of a threat and NIU currently leads the nation in consecutive conference wins with 17.
Northern Illinois currently sits as the sixth team also receiving votes in the AP rankings, but with several ranked teams playing each other this week the Huskies could jump into the Top 25 as early as next week.
Finally, if the first three games have told us anything about Northern Illinois, it's that Jordan Lynch is picking up right where he left off last season.
The Huskies are averaging 39.3 points per game, and the bulk of the offense has once again ridden on the arm and legs of Lynch as the QB has already thrown for 662 yards and seven touchdowns with a 63 percent completion rate. He has also run for 404 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and scored two touchdowns on the ground.
Lynch has accounted for nine of NIU’s 15 offensive touchdowns and is proving that last season wasn’t a fluke. But Lynch's success can't be mentioned without giving some praise to the Northern Illinois offensive line that has allowed the offense to rush for an average of 295.3 yards per game, good for 11th in the nation.
Wide receiver TommyLee Lewis also has been a big contributor for the NIU offense, having grabbed 23 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis also ranks third on the team with 120 rushing yards on six carries.
It’s clear that the Huskies' defense will not be the strength of the team. Allowing an average of 33.7 points per game, NIU isn’t going to shut out many teams (if any). Slowing offenses down is more their style, and then getting the ball back to Lynch and the offense.
Fortunately, Purdue’s defense hasn’t been spectacular so far this season either, and should give the Huskies ample opportunity to hang a lot of points on the scoreboard.
The Boilermakers give up an average of 32 points per game and only score 15 a game.
The only time these two teams have met was in 2009 in West Lafayette. That game resulted in a 28-21 Northern Illinois win — an outcome the Huskies will try to replicate come Saturday.