Shawun Lurry didn’t start the first two games this season and isn’t considered the best cornerback on his team.
Yet by season’s end, the sophomore was the nation’s leader in interceptions with nine and a first-teamer on the Football Writers Association of America All-American team.
Lurry will face Boise State’s pass-happy offense Wednesday in the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium.
“God just let me be born with instincts,” Lurry said. “My uncles and my brothers and my cousins, playing with older guys when I was little, that got me better, too. Ever since then, I’ve been going for the ball.”
Lurry plays opposite senior cornerback Paris Logan, who was an All-MAC selection last year.
That led to some early chances for Lurry.
“After last year, (Logan) was first-team all-conference and the best corner in the league and people knew it,” Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said, “so they weren’t going to throw at him. So Lurry got a ton of opportunities.
“Now give him credit, he made the most of those opportunities. He’s earned it, but he’s also had an opportunity.”
Lurry also ranks second in the nation in passes defended with 23, which includes his 14 breakups.
Logan has 11 passes defended with one interception and 10 breakups.
As a team, the Huskies rank 34th in pass efficiency defense. They have allowed 22 touchdown passes while grabbing 21 interceptions and permitting completions on just 56.5 percent of throws.
“The two corners they have might be the two best we’ll play against,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
Lurry recorded seven interceptions in the first seven games this season, before he was a known commodity. That included two picks against Ohio State.
He has two interceptions in the past six games.
“He contests every ball,” Boise State tight ends coach Kent Riddle said. “You’re not going to get guys wide open on him. He’s right in guys’ hip pocket.”
The Lurry-Logan duo could be a problem for a Boise State offense that has completed 88-of-156 passes in the past three games, a 56.4 percent completion rate.
“We like to compete, too,” Riddle said. “We go against some pretty good corners in practice every day.”
Lurry is part of the Huskies’ growing Florida connection. He is from West Palm Beach, Fla., and chose NIU in part because he knew wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla.).
Lurry will face a Boise State offense that averages 304.3 passing yards per game.
“It’s going to be a good matchup,” he said. “They’re a good offense, from what I’ve been seeing on film and what I’ve been seeing in past years. It’s going to be a good game.”
POINSETTIA BOWL: BOISE STATE VS. NORTHERN ILLINOIS
▪ When: 2:30 p.m. Wednesday
▪ Where: Qualcomm Stadium (71,500, grass), San Diego
▪ TV: ESPN
▪ Radio: KBOI (670 AM) and KTIK (93.1 FM)
▪ Records: Boise State (8-4, 5-3 Mountain West); Northern Illinois (8-5, 6-2 Mid-American)
▪ Coaches: Boise State, Bryan Harsin (20-6, second year; 27-11, third year overall); Northern Illinois, Rod Carey (31-11, third year)
▪ Series: First meeting
▪ Vegas line: Boise State by 8 1/2