WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Every time the Northern Illinois locker room door opened, celebratory noises escaped.
While coach Rod Carey downplayed the potential lasting impact of the 55-24 victory against Purdue on Saturday, there is little doubt about how significant the Huskies considered the victory afterward.
They became the first Mid-American Conference team to defeat two Big Ten teams in the same regular season by beating Iowa and Purdue on the road.
"That means a lot to this program," quarterback Jordan Lynch said. "We came a long way since my freshman year. Things are looking up."
Things are certainly pointing in the right direction for the Huskies (4-0), who head into MAC play undefeated and should feel comfortable shooting for another BCS bowl after last season's Orange Bowl appearance.
"After 24 hours, we're 0-0," Carey said. "We have a conference to go get."
The Huskies were in attack mode all afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium, where the defense forced five turnovers and a Boilermakers quarterback change.
Safety Dechane Durante picked off two Rob Henry passes in the first half. Dominique Ware intercepted another, and Jimmie Ward, finally sans cast on his left hand, returned another for a 62-yard touchdown.
"They know they're going to have opportunities if they play the call and execute it," Carey said. "Then you have to make the play, and that's probably the hardest part of it all."
After Purdue (1-4) closed the first half with a field goal to cut its deficit to 27-10, Tommylee Lewis returned the second-half opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to provide a 34-10 lead.
"We weren't really happy with ourselves about that," Carey said of the field goal. "We came out right at them."
Said Purdue coach Darrell Hazell: "I thought our guys felt we had a chance, but to then have that [kickoff return], that hurt us a lot."
After falling behind in its previous three games, the Huskies emphasized a quick start against the Boilermakers.
"I was kind of in rhythm throwing and it kind of silenced the crowd," said Lynch, who completed 18 of 25 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns, and added a seven-yard rushing touchdown before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter. "The way the defense was going we took the crowd out of it early."