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The mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers just lost at home to a MAC team

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NIU dealt the Huskers their first MAC loss ever.

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Northern Illinois Huskies beat Nebraska on Saturday in Lincoln, 21-17. The stunning loss dropped the Huskers to 1-2, and it comes just days after the school announced a contract extension for head coach Mike Riley.

Nebraska had never lost to a MAC team in its history and entered 5-0 against current members. Rod Carey’s team ended that. This will be the highest-profile, but NIU’s done well against the Big Ten in recent times, including wins against Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa, and Minnesota since 2010. It’s a great win, even though Nebraska looks bad.

The Huskers spent most of the game behind the eight ball, because quarterback Tanner Lee got pick-sixed twice in the first quarter by NIU defenders. Those made it a 14-0 Huskies lead, and Nebraska had to claw back in front of its home crowd. It did, to the point where the Huskers grabbed a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter. But NIU answered right afterward and held on to win, with Lee getting picked on a fourth down to end it.

The first of NIU’s two interception return scores:

And the second:

That made this a legitimate statistic for a time:

Ouch.

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After the two pick-sixes Nebraska lulled for a while longer. The halftime score was the same 14-0, but the Huskers chipped away and grabbed a 17-14 lead just after the start of the fourth quarter. That started the see-saw that led to the dramatic finish.

The Huskers almost lost to a mid-major in Week 1, when Arkansas State came a dropped touchdown in the final minute away from forcing overtime. They did lose last week at Oregon, though they at least stayed competitive in falling by a touchdown against a dangerous offense. The Huskers were really close to an 0-3 start.

NIU went 5-7 last year, and the Huskies weren’t seen as a top-tier MAC contender this year. But they’re a quality enough team that a bowl has always appeared well within reach. Now that they’ve beaten Nebraska in Lincoln, maybe it’s time to recalibrate expectations. Even if the Huskers are bad, the Huskies might be good.