Countdown to Kickoff
Alabama Football Game Four Notes: Northern Illinois


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Kenneth Darby
Kenneth Darby

Helmet Northern Illinois

Helmet Alabama

Game 4: Northern Illinois Huskies (2-0) vs. #21 Alabama Crimson Tide (2-1)
September 20, 2003
Bryant-Denny Stadium
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
6:00 p.m. CST (PPV)

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  • Northern Illinois will be the Crimson Tide's 116th different football opponent since 1892.
  • Alabama has played only one other game with a team from the state of Illinois, beating the Fighting Illini 20-15 in the 1982 Liberty Bowl in Coach Paul Bryant's final game with the Tide.
  • Senior RB Shaud Williams was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after rushing 30 times for 174 yards and three TDs against Kentucky (Sept. 13).
  • Williams ranks 5th in the NCAA with sixth total TDs this season.
  • He also ranks 12th in the NCAA averaging 12 points per game.
  • Williams is averaging 121 rushing yards per game this season despite not having a run for more than 19 yards.
  • Sophomore LB DeMeco Ryans leads the SEC with 30 tackles this season.
  • Alabama is playing a school record third straight night game at Bryant-Denny Stadium this weekend.


After posting its 12th consecutive win in Southeastern Conference openers last weekend against Kentucky, the Alabama Crimson Tide (2-1, 1-0 SEC) plays its third non-conference game of the 2003 season by hosting the Northern Illinois Huskies (2-0, 0-0 MAC) this Saturday, Sept. 20 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  The game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis in Alabama and Illinois and the kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m. (CT).  The game will be the first time Alabama has ever faced a team from the Mid American Conference. Northern Illinois has won nine of its last 10 games, dating back to last season.  The Huskies opened the 2003 season with a 20-13 overtime win over Maryland on Thursday, Aug. 28 in DeKalb, Ill.  Handling the announce duties for the Pay-Per-View telecast will be David Crane  (play-by-play), Tyler Watts (analyst) and Chris Stewart (sideline). The game will also be aired on the 80-plus station Crimson Tide Sports Network with Eli Gold (play-by-play), Kenny Stabler (color analyst) and Tom Roberts (sidelines) describing the action.


The University of Alabama is in its 109th football season and has compiled a 755-285-43 (.719) all-time record in 1,083 games. The Crimson Tide played its first football game on Nov. 11, 1892 with a 56-0 win over Birmingham High School in Birmingham. Alabama is fifth on the all-time victory list for Division I. The Crimson Tide football legacy includes 12 national championships and 21 SEC championships.  UA has also logged 27 10-win seasons, the most by any Division I school. UA also ranks among the best in post-season play, holding the NCAA record for most bowl games (51) and wins (29).


Alabama head coach Mike Shula (2-1, .667) makes his head coaching debut during the 2003 season.  Shula previously served as an assistant coach in the NFL with Tampa Bay, Chicago and Miami.  A three-year letterman at Alabama (1984-86), Shula was a two-time All-SEC selection and threw for over 2,000 yards as a junior (1985), leading Alabama to dramatic come-from-behind wins over Georgia and Auburn. 

Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak (30-50, .375) is in his eight season as head coach of the Huskies. Novak's accomplishments over the last three-plus seasons has put NIU on the football map.  The popular coach began his career by losing 26 of his fist 27 games, including a school-record 23-game losing streak from Sept. 28, 1996 through Oct. 10, 1998.  Since then, the Huskies have played winning football, posting a 29-23 (.558) record in their last 52 games.  NIU has had three straight winning seasons under Novak (2000-02) and last year went 8-4 and shared the Mid American Conference championship, losing the tie-breaker to Toledo.  Novak has also served as an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), Illinois, Northern Illinois and Indiana, working for Bill Mallory at NIU and Indiana for 12 years.


The game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis.  Alabama and Illinois residents may call their local cable operator to order the game.  The game will also be available on DISH Network (Channel 456) or by calling 1-800-TVSTARS (large C-band owners).  The game is also available through ESPN GamePlan in the states other than Alabama and Illinois.


Alabama closes out its season-opening five-game homestand with the Arkansas Razorbacks next Saturday, Sept. 27 here at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  The game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports (2:30 PM).


*Kickoff on the Quad begins at 3 p.m. on the UA Quad with food, entertainment, autograph guests and more.

*The 1973 Alabama football team will hold their 30th reunion at the NIU game this week.  The 1973 team went 11-1 and claimed the UPI national championship under Coach Paul Bryant.

*Former Alabama All-American Bobby Humphrey  (1984-87) will sign autographs in the legends tent and will run out the game ball this Saturday.

*The Alabama softball team will sign autographs on the Quad prior to Saturday's Alabama-NIU game.


Here are some notebook items on the Crimson Tide offense.

*Of the seven offensive touchdown drives this season, five have covered 79 or more yards, including a pair of 90-yard scoring drives.

*Alabama's seven offensive TD drvies have averaged 8.3 plays and 79.6 yards this season.

*Alabama has a 17-point scoring advantage in the fourth quarter this season, the second-highest total in the SEC.

*Alabama is averaging 129.3 yards per game in the third quarter this season. 

*Alabama has also managed 23 first downs and 26 total points in the third quarter this season.

*Of the Crimson Tide's 80 points this season, 50 of those points have come in the second half.

*The Crimson Tide is coming off its best game of the season against Kentucky, piling up 464 yards of offense in a 27-17 win.

*Bama's 266 rushing yards against the Wildcats are the most this season and fell 31 yards shy of previous two game total.

*Alabama ran a season-high 80 plays in the win over UK.  For the season, the Bama offense is averaging 76.7 snaps per game.

*The Crimson Tide offense picked up 127 total yards (68 rushing, 59 passing) in the first quarter against Kentucky (Sept. 13), exceeding  its totals from the previous two games (55 yards) by 72 yards.

*Alabama had at least 100 yards of offense in all four quarters against Kentucky.

*Alabama was held to just five rushing yards in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma.

*Alabama was held to only nine total yards in the first quarter against South Florida (Aug. 30).


Here are some notebook items on the Crimson Tide defense.

*Alabama has held seven of the last 10 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, including three last four (Hawai'i, South Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky) in a row.

*The Crimson Tide held the Wildcats to 26 rushing yards (23 attempts) on Sept. 13, the 11th lowest total in the NCAA this season.

*Alabama has allowed only two rushing touchdowns (South Florida and Kentucky one each) in its last eight games. 

*During that time, opponents have rushed the ball 210  times, or one rushing TD for every 105 rushing attempts.

*Alabama has not forced a turnover in its last two games against Oklahoma and Kentucky.

*After three first half turnovers against Sotuh Florida (Aug. 30), Alabama has gone 10 straight quarters without a turnover.

*The Oklahoma game ended a streak of 18 straight games in which the Alabama defense had forced at least one turnover. 

*Prior to the Oklahoma game, the last time Alabama did not force a turnover was Oct. 20, 2001 against Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*Alabama has forced at least one turnover in 23 of its last 26 regular season games.

*In the second quarter this season, Alabama has allowed 310 total yards (105 avg) in its first three games, the most of any quarter.

*In three games, Alabama has allowed just 26 total rushing yards (8.7 yards) in the third quarter this season. 

*Opponents are just 2-for-8 on third down in the fourth quarter this season.

*Alabama held Kentucky to eight total yards (3 rushing, 5 passing) in the first quarter on Sept. 13.  UK did not make their initial first down or cross midfield until the 10 minute mark of the second quarter.

*Kentucky had zero rushing yards in the second quarter against Alabama and managed only three rushing yards in the entire first half.

*The Crimson Tide defense held South Florida to eight rushing yards in the first quarter.

*South Florida managed only three snaps and zero net yards against the Alabama defense in the fourth quarter.


Here are some notebook items on the Crimson Tide players entering the Northern Illinois game.

*Sophomore defensive end Mark Anderson had a career-high three tackles and one TFL (-7) in the win over Kentucky.

*Junior kicker Brian Bostick has as many field goals and more points scored in three  games this season as he did in eight games last year. 

*Through three games, Bostick has 26 points for the Crimson Tide, converting 6-of-8 field goals and 8-of-9 PATs.

*Last year in eight games, Bostick managed only 22 points, converting 6 of 8 FGs and 4 of 5 PATs.

*Senior defensive tackle Anthony Bryant recorded a career-high seven tackles in the loss to Oklahoma (Sept. 6).  His previous high was five tackles against Vanderbilt last season.

*Junior defensive tackle Ahmad Childress recorded his first career PBU in the win over Kentuky.

*Redshirt freshman running back Kenneth Darby had eight carries for 62 yards in the win over UK.

*Senior Zach Fletcher has seven catches for 137 yards this season.  As a junior, he had only seven catches for 193 yards and two TDs in 13 games.

*Redshirt freshman linebacker Juwan Garth had a career high three tackles in the win over UK.

*Senior split end Brandon Greer has five catches for 55 yards in three games this season.  Prior to the 2003 season, he had only one catch for 10 yards in his first 27 games at Alabama.

*Senior offensive lineman Atlas Herrion earned his second career start in the win over Kentucky, subbing for the injured Justin Smiley.  Herrion's only other career start came in the 2001 Independence Bowl.

*Junior running back Ray Hudson needs 38 total yards for 1,000 career all-purpose yards.

*Junior Chris James had a career-high three tackles on special teams in the win over Kentucky.

*Senior free safety Charles Jones recorded a career-high two PBUs in the Oklahoma game.

*Junior right cornerback Anthony Madison posted a career-high eight tackles in the Oklahoma game.  His previous high was four last year at Arkansas.

*True freshman Le'Ron McClain made his first career start against Kentucky, subbing for the injured Tim Castille.

*Against the Cats, McClain had two receptions for 35 yards, including a long of 29 yards.

*Sophomore left corner back Charlie Peprah has five career interceptions for 141 yards and two TDs. 

*Peprah is one TD shy of tying the all-time Alabama record of three interception returns set by Antonio Langham (1990-93).

*Peprah is currently tied for second place all-time with Cecil "Hootie" Ingram (1952-54), Bobby Johns (1965-67), Steve Higginbotham (1969-71) and Reggie Myles (1998-2001).

*Peprah had two TFLs (-4) in the win over Kentucky on Sept. 13.

*Junior linebacker Derrick Pope is fifth in the SEC with 27 tackles this season.

*Pope had a career-high 17 tackles in the Oklahoma (Sept. 6) game, the most in the SEC this season.

*The 17 tackles are the most by an Alabama player since Marcus Spencer had 19 stops against Miss. State in 2000.

*Pope's nine solo tackles against the Sooners are the most in the SEC after three games.

*Pope also added a career-high three QB pressures in the Oklahoma game, playing one the better games of his UA career.

*Against Kentucky (Sept. 13), Pope had a career-high two sacks for minus 19 yards, both figures are the most in the SEC this year.

*Pope is second on the UA team with 20 tackles after two games and is on pace for 130 stops this season.

*Sophomore linebacker DeMeco Ryans leads the SEC with 30 tackles this season.

*The 30 tackles in three games are more than he amassed as a freshman (27) last year in 13 games.

*Ryans had a career-high 16 tackles against Oklahoma (Sept. 6), the second-highest total in the SEC this season.

*Ryans' 16 tackles more than doubled his previous best of seven tackles in the 2003 season opener against South Florida.

*Ryans also added a career-best two TFLs (-4) in the Oklahoma game.

*Junior special teams player Thurman Ward had a career-high three tackles in the win over Oklahoma.


This will be the first-ever meeting between Alabama and Northern Illinois.


Alabama 1-1 (.500) against the current field of Mid American Conference teams.

*The only actual meeting with a MAC school was a 21-7 win over Bowling Green on Aug. 31, 1996 at Legion Field.

*The Crimson Tide lost to Central Florida 40-38 on Oct. 28, 2000, but the Knights were an independent at the time and have since joined the MAC.


*Alabama has played only one other football team from the state of Illinois in its 109-year history. 

*In Coach Paul Bryant's final game, Alabama defeated Illinois, 20-15, on Dec. 29, 1982 in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

*Jeremiah Castille intercepted an Alabama bowl record three passes in the game and was named the Liberty Bowl MVP.

*Northern Illinois won the 1963 NAIA national championship with a perfect 10-0 record.

*Northern Illinois has never beaten as SEC school, going 0-8 (.000) in its previous eight meetings.

Northern Illinois vs. SEC

SEC Opponent      Record    Last Mtg     
Alabama           0-0       First Meeting
Arkansas          0-1       1994
Auburn            0-1       2000
Florida           0-2       1995
Georgia           0-0       NA
Kentucky          0-0       NA
LSU               0-0       NA
Miss. State       0-0       NA
Ole Miss          0-1       1993
South Carolina    0-0       NA
Tennessee         0-0       NA
Vanderbilt        0-3       1999

Northern Illinois Game-By-Game vs. SEC Schools

Date                Result                
Oct. 19, 1991       Florida 41, NIU 10
Nov. 13, 1993       Ole Miss 44, NIU 0
Oct. 29, 1994       Vanderbilt 17, NIU 16
Nov. 12, 1994       Arkansas 30, NIU 27
Nov. 4, 1995        Florida 58, NIU 20
Oct. 11, 1997       Vanderbilt 17, NIU 7
Sept. 11, 1999      Vanderbilt 34, NIU 31
Sept. 23, 2000      Auburn 31, NIU 14

*The Huskies are tentatively scheduled to play at LSU (Sept. 23, 2006), at Alabama (Aug. 30, 2008) and Tennessee (Sept. 25, 2010).


Here is the statistical comparison between Alabama and Northern Illinois.

UA-NIU Stats Breakdown

Category               UA           NIU  
Points Scored          80           62
 Average               26.7         31.0
Points Allowed         54           30
 Average               18.0         15.0

Rushing Yards          187.7        109.5
Passing Yards          198.7        263.5
Total Offense          386.3        373.0

Rushing Defense        50.3         102.0
Passing Defense        218.3        231.5
Total Defense          268.7        333.5

Turnovers              4            2
 Fumbles               1            1
 Interceptions         3            1

Penalties Per Game     5.0          5.5
 Average Yards         36.7         53.0
Punting (No-Avg)       14/37.4      15/41.7
Time of Possession     34:21        31:09
Third Down Conv.       18/45        15/33
Fourth Down Conv.      4/4          0/0
Red Zone               10/13        5/5
Sacks By               3 (-27)      4 (-11)
Shaud Williams (UA)      75-363-5
Michael Turner (NIU)     57-224-2

PASSING LEADERS          Comp-Att-Int-Yds-TD
Brodie Croyle (UA)       52-96-3-596-2
Josh Hladi (NIU)         38-62-1-518-5

Triandos Luke (UA)       11-143-2
Zach Fletcher (UA)       7-137-0

P.J. Fleck (NIU)         18-161-1
Dan Sheldon (NIU)        6-107-2

PUNT RETURNS             No.-Yds-Avg-TD
Shaud Williams (UA)      7-94-13.4-1
Dan Sheldon (NIU)        7-108-15.4-0

KICKOFF RETURNS          No.-Yds-Avg-TD
Ray Hudson (UA)          4-86-21.5-0
Randee Drew (NIU)        2-43-21.5-0


The Northern Illinois Huskies will be the Crimson Tide's second first-time opponent this season.

*Alabama opened the 2003 season by playing South Florida (Aug. 30) for the first time in school history.

*In its last 20 games, Alabama has played four first-time opponents, including Middle Tennessee (Aug. 31, 2002), Hawai'i (Nov. 27, 2002), South Florida and Northern Illinois.

*Northern Illinois will mark the 116th different football opponent for Alabama since football began in 1892.

*Alabama is scheduled to play two more first-time opponents next year, including Utah State (Sept. 4) and Western Carolina (Sept. 18) in Tuscaloosa.

*Alabama has a winning record against 92 of its previous 115 opponents since 1892.


Alabama's on campus home since 1929, Bryant-Denny Stadium is one of college football's most scenic venues.

*The Crimson Tide has compiled an all-time record of 188-34-3 (.842) in 225 games.

*Alabama has sold out 63 of the 65 games played at Bryant-Denny Stadium since the stadium was expanded prior to the 1988 season, raising capacity to 70,123 fans.  The two exceptions were North Texas (Sept. 14, 2002) and Kentucky (Sept. 13, 2003).

*In 1998, the capacity was increased to its present size of 83,818 fans here at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*The Crimson Tide recorded 56 consecutive sellouts (1987-2002) prior to last year's win over North Texas (Sept. 14).  The UNT snapped the sellout streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

*The stadium was originally named for former University of Alabama President Dr. George H. Denny.  Denny, who was named UA President on Jan. 1, 1912, began an extraordinary career that spanned almost a quarter of a century. 

*Bryant-Denny Stadium and Denny Chimes (located on the UA quadrangle) stand as reminders to Denny's legacy to the Capstone.

*In 1976, the State of Alabama Legislature and the UA Board of Trustees added coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's name to the stadium, thus calling Alabama's football home Bryant-Denny Stadium.