Illinois Beats Western Michigan 37-10 For Sixth Consecutive Homecoming
Northern Illinois 37, Western Michigan 10
- A Huskie Stadium record 28,221 fans witnessed Northern Illinois'
sixth consecutive Homecoming win as the 12th-ranked Huskies moved
to 7-0 on the season after a 37-10 win over Western Michigan on
Saturday afternoon (Oct. 18) at Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium
in DeKalb, IL.
The seven consecutive
wins by the Huskies to open the 2003 season also tied the school
record of seven straight wins set by the 2002 team from Sept. 28
through Nov. 16. Northern Illinois now owns the nation's third longest
active winning streak of seven games, behind Texas Christian (8)
and Virginia Tech (8). Oklahoma, who owns an eight-game winning
streak heading into Saturday, plays tonight against the Missouri
Tigers. Northern Illinois has also won 14 of its last 15 contests,
with its lone loss coming on Nov. 23 vs. Toledo, 33-30.
Facing a high-powered
Western Michigan passing attack that led the Mid-American Conference
with 344.7 yards a game, it was important for the Huskie defense
to set the tone early, and did they ever. On the opening possession,
the NIU defense forced Western Michigan back near its own goal line,
as three plays netted the Broncos negative four yards.
at the Western Michigan 47-yardline, Michael Turner rushed for nine
yards on first down, setting up NIU with an ideal passing down of
second and one. Turner again got the ball on a screen pass from
junior quarterback Josh Haldi and raced 38 yards for his first receiving
touchdown of his career. On the play, senior wide receiver P.J.
Fleck sealed off the WMU cornerback, allowing Turner to hit the
corner and the afterburners for the TD. The drive took just two
plays and lasted just 51 seconds, but for the first time this season,
NIU was on the board first.
a concerted effort to come out in the first quarter and play well.
You look at last week and we didn't play as well as we were capable
of early. That was the first coin toss all year that we won. The
defense had the three-and-out and set up good field position right
responded with a drive of its own to cut the NIU lead to 7-3. The
key play on the drive was a 52-yard completion from WMU quarterback
Chad Munson to Antonio Thomas to get the Broncos down to the NIU
14. But the Northern Illinois defense was up to the challenge again,
holding Western Michigan to just three more yards and a 29-yard
Robert Menchinger field goal.
brought the NIU crowd back to its feet on the ensuing kickoff as
he raced 86 yards for an apparent touchdown. However a holding call
on the Huskies brought the football back to the NIU 25. NIU quickly
got those three points back as Haldi hit Sam Hurd down the sideline
for 56 yards, the longest NIU pass play of the season, to set the
Huskies up at the WMU 14. After a pair of Michael Turner rushes
and an incomplete pass, Steve Azar made Mid-American Conference
history as he moved to the top of the MAC's career kick-scoring
list with 323 points. Azar would finish the day with 332 career
kick-scoring points, tops among kickers and third all-time among
all scorers. Travis Prentice (1996-99) scored 468 points for Miami
(Ohio) to lead the MAC.
of unbelievable. Halfway through the season, the team has given
me all these opportunities. Without holder P.J. Fleck and snapper,
Kursten Strohman, I couldn't do my job."
After the Northern
Illinois defense forced another three-and-out, Haldi and tight end
Brad Cieslak hooked up to make the score 17-3 on an eight-yard touchdown
pass. The score was Cieslak's second of the year on just three receptions.
Azar added another
field goal at the start of the second quarter as he booted a 22-yarder
to make the score 20-3. After Western Michigan moved the chains
for just the second time of the opening quarter via an NIU facemask
penalty, the Northern Illinois defense held the Broncos in check
thanks to Vinson Reynolds's fourth sack of the season on the third
then marched 75-yards on 11 plays leading to Azar's chip shot. While
the Huskies limited WMU to just the two first downs and 68 yards
of total offense, Haldi and the Huskies flourished. The Madison,
OH, native completed 7-of-10 passes in the opening quarter for 159
yards and two scores while the Huskies racked up 212 yards.
added a final score just before halftime thanks to the legs of Michael
Turner. After Rob Lee intercepted Munson in the endzone for his
third pick of the season, NIU took over at its own 20-yardline and
marched 80 yards in six plays capped by Turner's sixth rushing score
of the year. Turner opened the drive with a 28-yard burst around
right end putting him over the 100-yard mark for the 17th time of
his career and ended the drive with the 18-yard run to make the
score 27-3. Turner finished the game with 4,222 career-rushing yards,
fourth all-time in MAC history.
hit, Turner had 137 yards on 19 rushes and the Huskies out-gained
the Broncos 311-116. Despite not having Nick Duffy in the middle,
NIU held the WMU offense to negative eight yards on the ground on
may have all but put the game away on its opening drive of the second
half. Taking over at its own 20, the Huskies marched 80 yards on
17 plays to make the score 34-3. During the drive, senior All-America
candidate P.J. Fleck caught six passes for 64 yards including the
13-yard touchdown reception on a slant pattern. Of Fleck's six catches,
three came on either third or fourth down to move the chains. Equally
important to the score, was the time taken off the clock during
the drive, 8:19. The nation's second ranked receiver entering today's
contest, Fleck finished with 10 receptions for 103 yards and a score
and has 57 catches for 621 yards and four TD's on the season.
probably, in my opinion, our best football game of the year, our
best 60 minutes of the year. The highlight for us, was that long
drive to open the third quarter. That was a great job by our offensive
got their lone touchdown of the afternoon near the end of the third
quarter to cut the NIU lead to 34-10. Taking over at its own 25,
Munson marched WMU downfield by completing 5-of-9 passes for 75
yards, capped by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings. Entering
the game as the MAC's second most prolific passer by passing yardage
(317.8 ypg.), Munson was held to just 216 yards on 16-of-31 throwing
and the one score. The Huskies also picked off Munson twice. NIU
also picked off Bronco backup signal caller Jon Drach once. Munson's
216 yards throwing was his second-lowest output of the season. In
a 59-16 loss to Virginia, Munson was 21-of-40 for 196 yards and
The final score
of the game came on Azar's third field goal. After marching 55 yards
on 12 plays, Azar was true from 31 yards out to cap the game's scoring
at 37-10. In addition to being his third make of the game, Azar
made his 66th career field goal.
will return to action next weekend when they travel to Bowling Green,
OH, to take on MAC Western Division rival Bowling Green State. Kickoff
is slated for 4 p.m. (EDT) and will be televised on ESPN 2.
Head Coach Gary Darnell
On the game:
"I'm certainly proud for Joe Novak and his team for what
they have done. Today was a huge disappointment for us. They were
in total control of the game early. We never did turn the corner.
We never did anything to close the gap. (Michael) Turner was putting
on a show and our guys bought the tickets to see it. In the first
half, we did the worst job of tackling in the history of football."
On the Bowling
Green vs. Northern Illinois Showdown next week:
"I'm not trying to get into any popularity contests. It's
phenomenal with those three teams in our division - Northern Illinois,
Bowling Green and Toledo - right now. I would put it as a toss-up.
They both have a lot of reasons to do well."
Northern Illinois Head Coach Joe Novak
On the game:
"It was probably, in my opinion, our best football game
of the year, our best 60 minutes of the year. The highlight for
us, was that long drive to open the third quarter. That was a great
job by our offensive team."
Green State game:
"It's exciting to get recognized. But when we get to Bowling
Green, our focus is on the football field. I don't care if the President
is there. It's going to be a great game. As big a game as it is,
there are still others left to play after it. We know they are a
Illinois running back Michael Turner
On meeting NIU Hall of Fame Inductee LeShon Johnson:
"To finally meet him was great. It was like history. In
the back of my mind, I wanted to give him a little show, but it
wasn't all about him."
Illinois quarterback Josh Haldi
On the game:
"We made a concerted effort to come out in the first quarter
and play well. You look at last week and we didn't play as well
as we were capable of early. That was the first coin toss all year
that we won. The defense had the three-and-out and set up good field
position right away."
line are now veterans. They are coming together. We got in a rhythm
offensively and we got them (WMU) on their heels early."
Illinois place kicker Steve Azar
On being the MAC's all-time career kick scorer:
"It's kind of unbelievable. Halfway through the season, the
team has given me all these opportunities. Without holder P.J. Fleck
and snapper, Kursten Strohman, I couldn't do my job."
Steve Azar moved into first on the Mid-American Conference's
all-time kick-scoring list with 332 career points.
Azar was also
a perfect 3-of-3 on field goal attempts on Saturday giving him 66
for his career, third all-time in MAC history among field goals
In rushing for
100+ yards for the 17th time in his career, Michael Turner now has
4,222 career rushing yards. He passes five individuals - Wasean
Tait of Toledo (4,135 yards, 1993-96, 1998), Curtis Adams of Central
Michigan (4,162, 1981-84), George Swarn of Miami-Ohio (4,172, 1983-83),
Jerome Persell of Western Michigan (4,190, 1976-78) and Robert Sanford
of Western Michigan (4,219, 1997-2000) for fourth all-time in MAC