Grid progress continues: Northern Illinois merits loop-high, school-record 11 All-MAC picks
December 2, 2002
GRID PROGRESS CONTINUES:
NORTHERN ILLINOIS MERITS LOOP-HIGH, SCHOOL-RECORD 11 ALL-MAC PICKS
winning seasons (6-5 in 2000, 6-5 in 2001, and 8-4 in 2002) for only the
second time in the programs 34-year tenure in the major-college
ranks. Back-to-back Mid-American Conference co-West Division titles (2001
and 2002). And now a league-leading and school-record 11 All-MAC gridiron
selections in one year.
That certainly is tremendous recognition from the leagues coaches that 11 of our kids are named All-MAC, Novak replied. Thats great. It really is. All of them are deserving of such an honor. Next year, we have several of them back. Still, with all those awards, that is not our focus. Its still a team game and we want a shot at playing in the MAC Championship Game and in a bowl game. Each one of these kids will tell you the same thing themselves.
Novaks 11 all-conference picks this autumn represent another step in the rebuilding program that took the Huskies from national doormat to the Mid-Ams upper echelon. Sadly, Northern Illinois dropped its regular-season MAC finale to the University of Toledo by a 33-30 margin for its only league setback, which cost the Huskies an appearance in the title game this Saturday (December 7) against East Division champion Marshall University and live on ESPN2.
led the Mid-Am with six 2002 first-team picks---senior offensive tackle
Tim Vincent (Galena), junior tailback Michael Turner (North
Chicago), senior linebacker Larry Williams (Chicago / Dunbar),
soph defensive end Travis Moore (Robbins / Blue Island Eisenhower),
senior cornerback Vince Thompson (Chicago / St. Rita), and junior
cornerback Randee Drew (Milwaukee, WI / Glendale Nicolet)---ahead
of MAC Championship Game participants Toledo and Marshall with four players
The Huskie Second-Team
All-Mid-Am choices included senior tight end Matt Dunker (Marengo), junior
center Todd Ghilani (Elkhorn, WI / Area), junior placekicker Steve
Azar (Colorado Springs, CO / Highlands Ranch), sophomore linebacker
Brian Atkinson (Chicago / Fenger), and junior linebacker Nick
Duffy (Wheaton / Warrenville South).
Azar and Williams joined an elite Huskie group of only eight players to be named All-MAC in football three times since 1975---and the former possesses a unique opportunity to become the first Northern Illinois four-time All-Mid-Am performer next season. Azar, who heads into 2003 as the leagues No. 1 active scorer with 266 career kick-scoring points (110-of-115 PATs and 52-of-66 field goals), made Honorable Mention All-MAC in 2000, First-Team in 2001, and Second-Team in 2002. Williams, a First-Team All-Mid-Am choice in both 2000 and 2002, plus an Honorable Mention pick in 2001, finished his career ranked No. 5 on the All-Time Huskie Hit List with 434 career tackles.
The previous Northern Illinois All-MAC grid three-peats include linebacker Frank Lewandowski (First-Team in 1977 and 1979, plus Second-Team in 1978), offensive guard-tackle Todd Peat (First-Team in 1984 and 1985, plus Second-Team in 1983), Diem (First-Team in 1999 and 2000, plus Second-Team in 1998), punter Jim Hannula (First-Team in 1978, plus Second-Team in 1979 and 1980), punter Todd Van Keppel (First-Team in 1984, Second-Team in 1983, and Honorable Mention in 1982), and tailback Allen Ross (Second-Team in 1977, 1979, and 1980).
Turner, a nominee for the leagues Vern Smith Award and a semifinalist for the Doak Walker National Runningback Award, headlined Novaks First-Team selections. The six-foot, 223-pound junior currently ranks No. 2 in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1-A rushing (159.6 yards-per-game average) and No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yardage (190.3 ypg.), plus No. 8 in scoring (10.0 ppg.). The Burner tied a single-season school record with nine 100-yard or better games and rewrote the MAC single-season rushing mark with 1,915 yards.
Drew and Thompson
started in a Northern Illinois secondary that ranked No. 9 in the nation
during the preseason and combined for 12 interceptions and 26 deflections
this year. Nationally, Drew ranks No. 6 in NCAA picks with
seven (0.58 per game) and No. 15 in kickoff returns (26.1 ypr.). In 2001,
Thompson also made First-Team All-MAC.
The All-MAC team was voted on by the leagues coaches and announced by league commissioner Rick Chryst Monday (December 2). The school-by-school All-MAC player breakdown: Northern Illinois (11), Marshall (11), Toledo (eight), Central Florida (six), Bowling Green State (five), Western Michigan (four), Ball State (three), Eastern Michigan (three), Miami (OH) (three), Central Michigan (two), Ohio (two), and Buffalo (one).
Other Mid-Am football awards that will be announced this week include Freshman of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year Tuesday (December 3), Defensive Player of the Year Wednesday (December 4), Offensive Player of the Year Thursday (December 5), and Coach of the Year and Vern Smith Award recipient Friday (December 6).
TE--Craig Bartoszek, Buffalo
TE--Matt Dunker, Northern Illinois
C--Todd Ghilani, Northern Illinois
OL--David Miller, Ball State
OL--Dennis Wendel, Bowling Green State
OL--Stephen Peretta, Marshall
OL--Erik Faasen, Toledo
WR--Jimmy Fryzel, Central Florida
WR--Carl Ford, Toledo
WR--Doug Gabriel, Central Florida
QB--Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (OH)
RB--Robbie Mixon, Central Michigan
RB--Ime Akpan, Eastern Michigan
RB--Luke Clemens, Miami (OH)
PK--Steve Azar, Northern Illinois
WR--Josh Davis, Marshall
OLB--Keon Jackson, Toledo
ILB--Duran Smith, Marshall
ILB--Bryan Lape, Western Michigan
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