MUNCIE, Ind. — When Northern Illinois defeated Kansas two weeks ago, Huskies head coach Dave Doeren ran around with a giant dog bone following the game, waving it at the NIU fans in attendance.
The victory over the Jayhawks was a "boneyard victory" — a win over a BCS school. It was a monumental win for NIU.
But it wasn't the Huskies' biggest win of the season to date. The Huskies' best victory of the year came Saturday at Ball State, with NIU pulling out a come-from-behind, 35-23 win over a good Cardinals team.
Sure, people might not remember this game five years from now since Ball State doesn't have the BCS tag in front of it.
But to go on the road and beat a Cardinals team that could easily be competing in a bowl game over the holiday season? More impressive than a victory over a bad Kansas team which might not win a single game in Big 12 Conference play.
A better victory than a win at Army Week 3. Even though the Black Knights usually play well at Michie Stadium, the team is still only 1-4.
Saturday's win at Scheumann Stadium was huge when it comes to conference title implications. The Huskies are unbeaten in MAC play and control their own destiny. As it stands, Doeren's team won't have to revert to scoreboard watching late in the year.
All NIU has to do is win its final six games of the season, and the Huskies are making yet another trip to Ford Field in Detroit for the MAC Championship Game.
"It's huge," said NIU linebacker Michael Santacaterina, who had an interception Saturday. "That's our goal coming into conference play, control our destiny."
Saturday's game was NIU's toughest road test of the season, and the Huskies got a passing grade. The contest against Western Michigan at Kalamazoo's Waldo Stadium on Oct. 27 won't be easy, but the Broncos could very well be without star quarterback Alex Carder, who's currently out with an injury to his throwing hand.
"To go on the road and win at a place like this against a quality opponent I think says a lot about our guys," Doeren said. "When they're down, there's no flinch. They just keep playing. Very proud of that."
Glancing at the schedule, the game against rival Toledo on Wednesday, Nov. 14 is what really stands out, just as it did at the beginning of the season.
The Rockets haven't lost a MAC game, and dropped 50 points on Central Michigan in a win Saturday. After trying the two-quarterback system at the beginning of the season, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell has finally settled on junior Terrance Owens.
In a deep MAC West, the Huskies can't afford to look ahead to the Toledo game. But, at least they won't have to pay attention to the scoreboard to see what the other teams in the conference are doing.
All the Huskies have to worry about is themselves.