DEKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois is showing that last year's BCS berth might be the start of the program's visible goal to become the next Boise State. The Huskies posted their second win over a Big Ten team this season by crushing Purdue 55-24.
After beating Iowa with a game-winning field goal in the final seconds in the season opener, the Huskies became the first Mid-American Conference team to defeat two Big Ten teams in the same season. The 31-point margin of victory ties the highest margin in conference history and marks NIU's 25th win in the last 27 games.
"That means a lot. It means a lot to this program," Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch said of beating two Big Ten teams this season. "We've come a long way since my freshman year. Things are looking up. The guys on this team love football. Any time you get a chance to play a BCS team, we have a chip on our shoulder."
The Huskies are now 4-4 in their last eight games against Big Ten teams. The NIU defense came to play after some sluggish games recently, forcing five turnovers, including two interceptions by Dechane Durante.
Toledo took a major step back in the MAC West Division race with a seven-point loss at Ball State. The Rockets are still in contention but need some help along the way.
"We'll regroup. It's a long season," Toledo coach Matt Campbell said. "It's only the end of September and we've got a lot of football left to play. I know our kids will be back."
Meanwhile, Ball State took a step forward and answered any questions about their team with a big win. Quarterback Keith Wenning is a player who deserves more attention.
The Cardinals are now 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the MAC heading into a possible upset-alert game at Virginia.
Wenning has thrown for 300-plus yards in all five games this year, with the Cardinals displaying a diversified offense with quality rushers and receivers.
Kent State got some good news with the return of Dri Archer. Although Trayion Durham carried the KSU offense, Archer was a welcome sight for the offense. He looked recovered from his ankle injury in Week 1, and the Golden Flashes need a healthy Archer for this Saturday's home game against Northern Illinois.
Archer sat out three games and had yet to play more than a handful of snaps this season until the Western Michigan game.
"It was nice to get back out there with my teammates," Archer said. "After I made contact on my first play, I knew it was going to be good for the rest of the game."
FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 5 IN THE MAC
1. Defending division champions Northern Illinois and Kent State hook up for a early showdown on Saturday. This is Kent State's chance to overcome all the problems from the first four games with a victory. The Golden Flashes looked more like last season's team with Dri Archer back in the lineup for the first time this season for extended snaps. Saturday's game is more critical for Kent State's season than NIU's. The Golden Flashes need to play competitive to build some momentum.
2. Northern Illinois is a machine. The NIU program notched its second win over a Big Ten team this season. The Huskies looked better than some Big Ten teams, scoring 55 points at Purdue. The offense and defense dominated the hapless Boilermakers en route to a 31-point victory. A win over any Big Ten team on the road is reason to celebrate for a MAC team, let alone a 31-point victory.
3. Dri Archer is finally back. The speedy senior returned to the field from an ankle injury and played the most snaps of the season in the win over Western Michigan. He was injured in the opener and limited to a handful of snaps to rush for 73 yards and catch four passes for 48 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown catch for his first touchdown of the season.
4. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch is not getting enough attention. Ever since the Orange Bowl loss, Lynch has not gotten the proper respect. Only a second-year starter, Lynch has beaten two Big Ten teams on the road this season, dealt with losing his top two receivers from last season, an injury to his top tailback and a coaching change. Lynch should be in consideration for the Heisman Trophy.
5. Akron is playing better but can't get past the one-win mark. The Zips gained a 14-3 lead over Bowling Green before the Falcons slammed the door shut and held the Zips scoreless the final three quarters. Akron doesn't get a break in the next month, hosting Ohio and Northern Illinois the next two weeks. But Akron plays at winless Miami (Ohio) on Oct. 19.