WEST LAFAYETTE | Jordan Lynch and his teammates were their usual selves on the big stage Saturday.
They scored points, they achieved new milestones and, of course, they won on the road.
Lynch threw for three touchdowns and ran for another while the Huskies scored on a kickoff return and an interception return, running away from Purdue 55-24 to become first Mid-American Conference team to win two regular-season games over Big Ten foes in the same year.
"We consider ourselves a championship team," Lynch said. "When we go on the road and win these games, it means a lot to the program."
Nobody has been better on the road lately than Lynch & Co.
The Huskies (4-0) have won 11 straight road games, 25 of 27 overall, now have back-to-back wins at Purdue and made this one look easy. Northern Illinois tied the MAC record for largest-victory margin over a Big Ten foe, matching the 31-point win Toledo posted over Minnesota in 2001.
Lynch, the Heisman Trophy hopeful, made another huge statement in what might have been his final college game against the Big Ten.
He went 18 of 25 for 207 yards and ran nine times for 35 yards and another score. Lynch's numbers might have been even higher had the game been closer or if coach Rod Carey hadn't pulled Lynch at the start of the fourth quarter. Still, Lynch did enough to become the 26th player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to top 4,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing.
And Lynch had plenty of help, too.
Cameron Stingily, the converted linebacker, rushed 15 times for 72 yards. Eight different receivers caught passes. The defense forced five turnovers and, for once, the Huskies could relax late in the game after opening the season with wins of 30-27 at Iowa, 43-35 at Idaho and 43-39 against Eastern Illinois.
Coach Rod Carey liked what he saw Saturday, especially out of a defense that was ranked 115th out of 123 in total yards allowed per game and 100th in scoring per game. While they still gave up yards, they didn't give up many points till the outcome was out of jeopardy.
"For an extended period of time, probably," Carey said when asked if that was Northern Illinois' best defensive game of the season. "They've had glimpses when they played a lot better, but they strung it all together over the long haul today, really good."
Purdue struggled for another reason — self-inflicted mistakes.
In addition to the turnovers, the Boilermakers (1-4, 0-1) had five pre-snap penalties on offense, the defensive coaching staff was called for sideline interference and things were so bad in the first half that new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell yanked the ineffective Rob Henry and replaced his starting quarterback with true freshman Danny Etling, his first action of the season.
Henry was 5 of 16 for 130 yards and stopped two potential scoring drives with interceptions deep in Northern Illinois territory. The first came on a pass that was too high and Shane Mikesky tipped it into the air. The second came when Henry tried to throw across his body from the right sideline and the fluttering ball was picked off by the leaping Dechane Durante, his second pick in less than 3½ minutes.
At that point, Hazell had seen enough.
"We had to do it," Hazell said. "I don't know if it's permanent, but when you make a red-zone turnover, we had to make a change to give ourselves a chance to win the game."
Etling responded quickly by leading the Boilermakers to a field goal just before halftime to cut the deficit to 27-10. He just never got a chance to bring the Boilermakers all the way back.
Purdue lost any momentum it gained from the quarterback change when Tommylee Lewis took the second-half kickoff, found a big hole in the middle of the field and outran kicker Thomas Meadows for a 99-yard score to make it 34-10.
"We were looking to get a stop and get back in the game, and I thought our guys felt like we had a chance," Hazell said. "But to have that come back, that hurt us, it hurt us a lot."
Things got even worse three series later when Jimmie Ward jumped in front of a Purdue receiver, picked off Etling and sprinted 62 yards for a TD to make it 41-10. Game over.
"We came a long way from my freshman year, and things are looking up," Lynch said. "The guys on this team love football and any time you have a chance to play a BCS and Big Ten team, we play with a chip on our shoulder."
Etling finished 19 of 39 for 241 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.