By JAMES NOKES
WEST LAFYETTE, Ind. – The punt fake came deep in Northern Illinois territory.
The Huskies needed just one yard, and seldom-used running back Justin Anderson scampered ahead to secure NIU its first win over a Big Ten team since 1988.
The Huskies beat Purdue 28-21 on Saturday at Purdue behind a career day from running back Me’Co Brown.
Purdue used a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown by Aaron Valentin to take a 7-0 lead.
Valentin fielded the line drive punt and made a few salsa moves that sent him east and west at midfield. He then used an illegal block that went uncalled to eventually find green grass up the far sideline.
An interception by Purdue linebacker Jason Werner on the ensuing NIU possession looked like the Boilermakers were in business. But the Huskies defense held, and when the offense took over, NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish was poised in the pocket.
The Indiana native orchestrated a 14 play, 62-yard scoring drive that Chad Spann capped with a one-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7.The NIU defense was again stout on Purdue’s next possession and forced a punt.
A touchback gave NIU possession in its 20-yard line, where Brown ripped off a career long 67-yard touchdown run. Freshman wide receiver Martel Moore threw a key block, which allowed the sophomore running back to make a slick-jab step that tangled the legs of Purdue free safety Torri Williams. Harnish escorted Brown into the end zone but never had to throw a block as NIU took a 14-7 lead.
At this point NIU had 204 yards of total offense and Purdue had just 54. The Boilermakers needed to get something going and a punt to Valentin, who had a big return touchdown earlier, seemed to be the perfect tonic.
But, Valentin began a string of miscues that cost him hispunt returner job in the second half.
Tyrone Clark recovered a muffed punt by Valentin to give NIU possession. The teams traded fumbles as Spann coughed up the ball as he spun into the Purdue defensive line.
Valentin would set up the Huskies again at 3:03 of thesecond quarter as he fumbled a line-drive punt to give NIU possession at the Purdue 23-yard line. Below an avalanche of players, Kiaree Daniels recovered the fumble.
This time the Purdue turnover lead to a 10-yard touchdownpass as Harnish threaded a pass to Reed Cunningham over a pair of Boilermake rdefenders to make the score 21-7.
Spann added an 11-yard touchdown run and it looked like theroute was on for the Huskies with a 28-7 lead.
But Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott reeled of touchdown runs of 58 and six yards to make the score 28-21.