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NIU snaps 0-8 losing streak against SEC

9/20/2003

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- The program known for its 23-game losing
streak beat the one famous for Bear Bryant and national
championships.

Josh Haldi threw two second-half touchdown passes and Michael
Turner ran for 156 yards as Northern Illinois beat Alabama (No. 21 AP)
19-16 on Saturday night.

"When you talk Alabama, you're talking one of the best,"
Huskies coach Joe Novak said. "This is a win we'll never forget."

Nor will Alabama (2-2), a 14-point favorite that couldn't muster
much second-half offense or bring down Turner.

"We played pitiful tonight," said Tide tailback Shaud
Williams, stymied until a 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth
quarter. "We couldn't have beaten anybody the way we played
tonight.

"We played pathetic. I've never been so embarrassed in my
life."

Then again, there's no shame in losing to the Huskies (3-0)
these days. The team that couldn't win in the 1990s toppled its
second ranked team of the season after opening with an overtime
upset of Maryland (then No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP).

Northern Illinois had been 0-8 against Southeastern Conference
teams.

"We don't get a lot of opportunities to come down to the Mecca
of college football and play a team like Alabama," said Haldi, who
was 16-of-24 for 149 yards.

Northern Illinois borrowed the Bear's formula, pounding between
the tackles, stuffing the run and using a low-risk passing game
that was just enough.

Williams burst between the tackles for his long score with 5:36
left in the Tide's only big running play, making it 19-16. Alabama
got the ball back just over a minute later after a defensive stop.

The Tide converted a fourth-and-2 on Brodie Croyle's 5-yard pass
to Triandos Luke, but still couldn't get past its own 40.

Three plays later, Croyle fumbled after cocking his arm to throw
and had to fall on it for an 8-yard loss. He underthrew Luke on
fourth-and-11 with Javan Lee hitting him as he threw, and the
Huskies ran out the clock.

Alabama was ranked for the first time under first-year coach
Mike Shula, but was outplayed by a lesser-known program with a
growing knack for knocking off big-name opponents.

Novak said this was the team's biggest win, but didn't sound too
surprised.

"Our kids have been in these arenas before," he said. "The
kids don't come into these arenas and get intimidated. We come in
thinking we've got a chance to win."

Turner wore out Alabama's defense, carrying 27 times and gaining
98 second-half yards. Alabama had been allowing 50 rushing yards a
game.

Haldi was sacked five times and hit frequently, but came through
in the second half. First, he hit Shatone Powers for a 12-yard
scoring pass with 6:05 left in the third quarter.

He hooked up on a 48-yard TD to Dan Sheldon with 7:28 to play,
on third-and-8. The play came after seven straight runs by Turner
and A.J. Harris.

Alabama then held Northern Illinois without a first down, but
couldn't get anything going on its final drive.

"Those are the kind of games where you've got to find a way,"
Shula said. "Somebody's got to step up and make a play and find a
way to get it done. We didn't do that in any phase."

Croyle was 22-of-39 for 276 yards with a 28-yard scoring pass to
Zach Fletcher in the first quarter.

Neither team turned the ball over.

Alabama's best field position to start its first five drives of
the second half was its own 14. Croyle's three passes of 20-plus
yards accounted for the only first downs.

Northern Illinois clobbered Alabama in special teams in the
first half but trailed 9-5, a strange score arrived at in even
stranger fashion.

Steve Azar kicked a 51-yard field goal, Kevin Woods returned a
blocked extra point for two points and Jason Hawkins blocked a
punt. Woods' return was the first ever defensive PAT for Northern
Illinois.

"It's tough, you can't even celebrate for a second with your
touchdown," Shula said. "Now all of a sudden it's 6-2."

Northern Illinois has blocked 13 kicks in its past 16 games.

"I really don't think they respected us as much as they should
have," Huskies receiver P.J. Fleck said. "Sometimes the most
talented teams don't win football games, and I really think they're
more athletic.

"But it's the team."

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