DeKALB – Sean Evans was on the Ross-Ade Stadium sideline in 2009, witnessing first-hand one of the gutsiest calls anyone in attendance will ever see.
Evans, then a true freshman cornerback who would end up taking a redshirt year, watched as former coach Jerry Kill called a fake punt from NIU’s own 16-yard line.
It paid off, as running back Justin Anderson took a direct snap and ran 11 yards for a first down. The call helped the Huskies run out the clock and hang on for a 28-21 win over Purdue.
“We had belief. That’s one thing that we pride ourselves on. We believe in the system, we believe in the journey, and never do we flinch. That was a prime example then,” Evans said. “Nobody in the stadium knew what was going on, but we did. We had faith, and when it worked, that just added to the spark. That just kept us going and really got things rolling. That was probably one of the most exciting moments of my career here.”
Evans was one of four current Huskes to travel to West Lafayette four years ago, with the others being quarterback Jordan Lynch, offensive tackle Matt Krempel and defensive tackle Anthony Wells.
It was the first “boneyard victory” for the group. The team puts up a large dog bone in the locker room after each win over a BCS school, a tradition that started in 1983.
NIU would add wins over BCS schools in 2010 (Minnesota) and 2012 (Kansas). This season started with another one of those boneyard victories, with the Huskies getting a win at Iowa in Week 1. NIU is looking to become the first Mid-American Conference team to beat two Big Ten teams in the same regular season. Bowling Green defeated Purdue in the 2003 regular season before defeating Northwestern in the Motor City Bowl.
“It would be big. That’s one of our goals this year is to have boneyard victories,” Evans said. “We made an effort this year to make it plural, since we have two Big Ten opponents on our schedule.”
The Huskies also are the first MAC team to be favored against a Big Ten team on the road since 2003, when Miami and Ben Roethlisberger were a three-point favorite at Northwestern. The Huskies are a 3.5-point favorites today.
The Boilermakers have struggled so far this year, particularly on offense. Purdue averages only 15.2 points a game and 246 yards a contest. Boilermakers offensive coordinator John Shoop was the Bears’ much-maligned coordinator from 2001-03.
Purdue has been in every one of its games at halftime, and NIU coach Rod Carey said he thinks the Boilermakers are better than their 1-3 record. Purdue has played two Top 25 teams, and only lost to No. 22 Notre Dame by seven points
“I don’t believe in [record] with these guys. They could easily be 3-1 or even 4-0,” Carey said. “I mean, they’re right there.”