DEKALB, Ill. (AP) -- Michael Turner had a little something extra to play for.
Turner ran for 173 yards and a touchdown and added a 38-yard reception for a score as Northern Illinois (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) beat Western Michigan 37-10 on Saturday to remain undefeated.
Turner's big game came in front of one of his biggest heroes,
LeShon Johnson. The former All-America running back was one of
several former Huskies honored at halftime.
"To finally meet him was very special for me," Turner said.
"In the back of my mind, I wanted to give him a little show."
Turner did, but he had some help.
Josh Haldi threw three touchdown passes as Northern Illinois
(7-0, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) took an early lead and held it
for the first time this year. The Huskies had to come from behind
to win their first six games.
Northern Illinois opened the season with nonconference wins over
Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State -- though coach Joe Novak believes
the Huskies have just started to come together.
"This is probably out best football game of the year. I thought
our defense played just outstanding," Novak said. "It's a great
time of the year to be playing well."
On the second play of the game, Turner caught a screen pass and
sprinted up the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown play.
Turner scored again just before halftime. After breaking a
tackle in the backfield, Turner sidestepped another defender for an
18-yard touchdown run that gave the Huskies a 27-3 halftime lead.
"Michael Turner put on a show and our defense just bought a
ticket," Western Michigan coach Gary Darnell said. "We absolutely
were the worst tackling football team in the history of college
football in the first half."
Things didn't get much better for the Broncos.
The Huskies added to their lead on the opening drive of the
second half when Haldi threw a 13-yard TD pass to P.J. Fleck.
Fleck had 10 catches for 103 yards receiving, and Haldi finished
19-of-27 for 276 yards with no interceptions as Northern Illinois
remained one of five unbeaten teams.
The first drive of the second half took 8:19 off the clock.
"My highlight was that drive to start the second half. That's
exactly what we needed," Novak said.
Western Michigan (3-4, 2-2) was called for three costly late
hits in the first half -- one that led to a Northern Illinois
touchdown and another that set up Steve Azar's field goal.
The worst of those came when Haldi tripped over his own feet for
a 7-yard loss, only to have two Broncos defenders pile on him. Two
plays later, Haldi connected with Brad Cieslak for a 3-yard TD pass
and a 17-3 lead.
Western Michigan's Chad Munson threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to
Gregg Jennings early in the third quarter to make it 34-10 -- one of
the few bright spots for the Broncos.
Northern Illinois sacked Munson seven times and picked off two
passes. Munson, who had been averaging 316 yards a game, finished
16-of-31 for 216 yards.
The Huskies, who have beaten Western Michigan three straight
times, held the Broncos to minus-2 yards rushing.
"This is by far the fastest defense I've played against in
college football," running back Trovon Riley said. "What else can
Turner, fifth in the country in rushing entering the game, had
137 yards rushing in the first half. He was taken out early in the
fourth quarter and finished with 35 carries.
The Huskies have won 14 of their last 15 games dating to last
season as they look to make their first postseason appearance since
a victory in the 1983 California Raisin Bowl.
Azar had field goals of 21, 22 and 31 yards to become the
highest-scoring kicker in MAC history. He passed Toledo's Todd