Countdown to Kickoff
Northern Illinois Defeats No. 21 Alabama, 19-16


Saturday, September 20, 2003

Zach Fletcher
Zach Fletcher

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Northern Illinois 19, Alabama 16

*Northern Illinois (3-0) defeated No. 21 Alabama 19-16 here tonight in front of 83,018 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  This was-the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

*With the win, Northern Illinois has now beaten No. 15 Maryland (20-13, OT) and No. 21 Alabama (19-16) this season.  The Huskies have won 10 of their last 11 games, dating back to the 2002 season.

*The win was also Northern Illinois' first-ever win against an SEC team, snapping a eight-game losing streak. The Huskies had previously played Arkansas (0-1), Auburn (0-1), Florida (0-2), Ole Miss (0-1) and Vanderbilt (0-3).

*Alabama (2-2) has now lost two of its three games with teams currently in the Mid American Conference.  The lone win came against Bowling Green (21-7) in 1996 at Legion Field.  The other loss was a 40-38 setback to Central Florida in 2000, prior to the Golden Knights joining the MAC. 

*NIU tailback Michael Turner ran the ball 27 times for 156 yards in the win over Alabama.  Turner averaged 5.8 yards per carry in the win over the Crimson Tide.  The Alabama game marks Turner's 14th career 100-yard rushing game with the Huskies.

*Turner's 156 rushing yards are the most against Alabama since Tennessee's Travis Stephens ran 33 times for 162 yards and three TDs in the Vols 35-24 win over the Crimson Tide on Oct. 20, 2001 here at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

*As a team, Northern Illinois ran the ball 40 times for 118 yards to become the first team to rush for 100 yards against the Alabama defense this season.  In its first three games, Alabama had allowed only 151 total rushing yards on 72 rushing attempts. 
*The previous high against Alabama this season was Oklahoma's 27 rushing attempts for 74 yards in a 20-13 win over the Crimson Tide on Sept. 6, 2003.

*Northern Illinois was the 116th different football opponent for the Crimson Tide.  Alabama is now 88-28 all-time in games against first-time opponents.

*NIU is the second team that Bama has faced this year for the first time, including South Florida (Aug. 30) in the season opener.  In addition, Alabama has a winning record against 92 of its 116 football opponents.
*The Alabama game captains for the Northern Illinois game were senior offensive lineman Atlas Herrion (offense), senior defensive end Nautyn McKay-Loescher (defense) and sophomore linebacker Freddie Roach (special teams).
*Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kyle Tatum (Prattville) made his Crimson Tide debut in the first half against Northern Illinois.  Tatum was redshirted last year and had not seen action in the first three games of the 2003 season before the NIU game.

*Sophomore Clint Johnston made his first start of the 2003 season, starting at the F-back position against the Huskies.  Johnston is third different player to start at F-back this season for the Crimson Tide.  True freshmen Tim Castille and Le'Ron McClain started the first three games for the Crimson Tide at the F-back.

*Alabama senior tailback Shaud Williams (Andrews, Texas) accounted for 140 all-purpose yards in the loss to Northern Illinois.  Williams ran the ball 13 times for 96 yards and one TD, including a season-high 54-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to cut the NIU lead to 19-16 with 5:36 left in the game.

*Williams 54-yard run was his first this season of 20 or more yards and came on a fourth-and-one call from the Alabama 46-yard line.  In addition, Williams caught six passes for 37 yards and added one punt return for seven yards against the Huskies.

*Senior split end Zach Fletcher hauled in his first touchdown pass of the 2003 season to give Alabama a 6-0 lead with 2:57 left in the first quarter.

*Fletcher's first TD of the season was a 28-yard reception from sophomore quarterback Brodie Croyle. Fletcher finished the game with three catches for 68 yards and the one TD, the third of his UA career.

*Following the Croyle-to-Fletcher touchdown pass, Northern Illinois defensive end Jason Frank blocked a Brian Bostick extra point attempt and the ball was lateraled to Kevin Woods, who raced the final 60-plus yards for the two-point conversion.

*The two-point return of the blocked extra point attempt is believed to be the first such return against the Crimson Tide since the rule was initiated in 1990. 

*The defensive PAT scored by Kevin Woods marked the first in Northern Illinois history since the rule was initiated in 1990.

*The blocked PAT conversion is the second against Bostick this season.  The Alabama junior also had an extra point blocked in the season opener against South Florida.

*Northern Illinois' Steve Azar booted a 51-yard field goal with 10:04 left in the second quarter to cut the Alabama lead to 6-5.  The 51-yard FG capped a 15-play, 60-yard drive that consumed 7:53 possession time. The 15 plays and the 7:53 time of possession are the most against Alabama on a scoring drive this season.

*Azar's 51-yard field goal tied the second-longest in Northern Illinois history, equalling the mark set by Vince Scott vs. Toldeo (1993) and Azar vs. Wake Forest (2002).

*The Huskies blocked their second kick of the first half when Jason Hawkins blocked a Bo Freelend punt and was credited with a six-yard return to the Crimson Tide 42-yard line.  NIU missed a 47-yard FG attempt following the blocked punt to preserve the Crimson Tide's 9-5 lead at halftime.

*NIU has blocked 13 kicks in their last 16 games.

*The last time Alabama had a punt blocked was Nov. 9, 2002 when Miss. State's Kevin Dockery blocked a Lane Bearden punt at the Alabama 26-yard line in the fourth quarter.  MSU turned the ball over on downs at the UA seven-yard line six plays later.

*NIU punter Anthony Gallagher punted seven times for 325 yards, an average of 46.4 yards per kick in the win over Alabama.  He had a long punt of 60 yards and landed five punts inside the 20-yard line.

*Alabama played its school-record third night game here at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  The three straight night games came against No. 1 Oklahoma, Kentucky and Northern Illinois.  The previous school record was two night games against North Texas and Southern Miss last season.

*Alabama is 17-4 all-time in its 21 night games here in Bryant-Denny Stadium since its first game under the lights in 1948.

*With the loss to Northern Illinois, Alabama falls to 6-2 all-time in games played on Sept. 20, including a two-game losing streak.  The Crimson Tide also dropped a 17-16 decision to Arkansas on Sept. 20, 1997 here in Tuscaloosa.

*Dating back to 1997, Alabama is 14-11 in its last 25 games in the month of September.

Northern Illinois Head Coach Joe Novak Quotes
"This is a great win. We came down here and our kids believed they could win and they did."
"We really take a lot of pride in the kicking game. Jason Hawkins got through and got a good block on it. Our punter (Anthony Gallagher) was awesome tonight."
"A few weeks ago I said Maryland was our biggest win, but this has to be. When you talk about Alabama, you're talking about one of the best. This is a win we'll never forget. Our kids didn't come in here intimidated. We respect Alabama, but we honestly came in here with the feeling we could win."
"You don't rush the football well against Alabama. I never expected that we'd run it as well as we did tonight. I have a lot of respect for Alabama's front seven."
"Right now I think we do. Right now we're fighting like the devil to get respect for our league."
"We run a pretty aggressive defensive system. We do a lot of zone blitzing."
"He (Brodie Croyle) just scrambles and makes something out of nothing. But the bottom line is we kept them out enough."
"He's a great quarterback in our system. He is perfect for what we're trying to do."

Northern Illinois Player Quotes


"This is a huge win for our players and for our team, but this is also just another win for our season, this is number three. This is just another feather in Coach Novak's hat."
(On NIU Rushing performance)
"We weren't that surprised. Our offensive line did a great job. We were on the field for a long time and we wore them down. I think that was the difference.

(On importance of victory)
"I think it surprised a lot of people in this stadium, but it didn't surprise the 100 guys in this room. A lot of people don't give us a lot of respect. So it's pretty much only those 100 guys and our fans who believed in us."


(On TD catch)
"We just had to take advantage of what we could get. I noticed their DB was trying to catch up and I just went by. I think we caught the defense off guard."

"This is one of the biggest wins our program has ever had. Now we believe we can play against every team we face."

(On halftime adjustments)
"We thought we played well in the first half, but we knew we could do better. So we made a few adjustments knowing that if we played better eventually the big plays would come."


"As soon as we got (Michael) Turner going, we knew big things would happen for us. We were able to run the ball and open up the passing game and that made big things happen for us. Michael is a great back, but the offensive line did a real good job. Alabama is the best front seven that we'll face and the best in college football, and to be able to do what we did is incredible."

"I'm very happy for our team. What we were able to do was remarkable. It's everything I thought it would be and a little more."


"As long as we keep getting wins against BCS schools the more confidence we'll have."

(On his ability to run ball effectively)
"I didn't know what to expect going in, but I knew that we would give all that we had and the results were pretty amazing. We knew we had to get the crowd out of the game. Everytime you go on the road your main objective is to get the crowd out of the game, and we were able to do that. This is a really big win for our team."


(On stopping Alabama's rushing attack)
"We weren't surprised and that's not an attack on Alabama. We had a lot of respect for Alabama and their running game, but we've stopped great backs before. One of our strengths in run defense."

"I think this is the biggest win since I've been here and I've been here four years. Coming to Alabama with all its tradition and coming away with a win is huge."
Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula Quotes

"We didn't do the things that we needed to win.  We had a blocked punt, a blocked point after attempt and too many penalties.  We just never got in a rhythm offensively, and it's tough to do that when you start so deep in your own end. 

On Northern Illinois:
"We knew they were a good team and they showed us that tonight and they showed everyone tonight.  They played great defense and have a great running back (Michael Turner) who broke tackles and was hard to bring down.  They won the field position battle and it's hard to win a game when you don't win that battle.

"We have to hang together after this loss.  It's going to be tough but we want to win.  It will be a tough week.  I told the team that you can't point fingers and worry about others but to worry about doing your own job and what you can do to make yourself better. 

"It was frustrating, but our guys didn't lose their poise.  We just didn't get the job done."
University of Alabama Player Quotes
Shaud Williams:

"We played pitiful tonight. We couldn't have beaten anybody the way we played tonight. Then, on the other hand, you have to give them credit. They came into a hostile environment and came out to win. You have to give them credit."
"We played pathetic. I've never been so embarrassed in my life."
Freddie Roach:

"They came out and fought really hard. We just have to come in next week and get ready to get better."
"He's a great athlete and I wish the best for him. Like I said, we've just got to get better."
Wesley Britt:

"They made more plays than we did. We have to find a way to fix what we messed up. That's all there is to it. We made too many mistakes tonight, mistakes that we should not make as a football team. We are a lot better than we demonstrated tonight."