“Most explosive player in the MAC.”

—Lindy’s Big Ten

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December 14, 2002


DeKALB, IL --- The word is starting to spread about Northern Illinois University junior tailback Michael Turner. Nationally. Regionally. Locally. How do you tell, you ask? Just read all the complimentary newspaper headlines. Ones this week such as “Miami takes Turn(er) for worst” or “Turner the burner roasts Miami.”

Well, the six-foot, 223-pounder made headlines again by being selected the Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season. League commissioner Rick Chryst made the announcement Monday (October 14).

Turner (North Chicago) became America’s first and only major-college rusher to reach the 1,000-yard plateau this season with a game-high 222 yards on 20 carries, plus a MAC record-tying and career-best five touchdowns (9, 73, 31, 15, and 5 yards) in the 48-41 showdown victory against East Division frontrunner Miami (OH) last Saturday (October 12).

“It was another great performance from Michael,” said Huskie head football coach Joe Novak. “When he gets his usual 30-to-35 carries, you almost expect him to gain 200 yards. What was really impressive about the Miami game was he reached 200 yards in 20 carries. There’s no doubt that the 73-yard touchdown in the third quarter really provided our team with a spark and got us back into the game. That was a big-league play and then some.”

With Northern Illinois trailing the host RedHawks, 27-7, Turner burst through the line for a 73-yard sprint TD with 5:16 remaining in the third period that left several Miami defenders behind in a cloud of dust. “He’s fast,” Novak added. “He’s big and a load to tackle. At the end of that run, Michael was pulling away from their defensive backs.”

Not to mention putting the Huskies right back into the game. In a span of 7:55, Turner tallied three TDs and lifted Northern Illinois into a 27-all draw. Novak’s contingent scored a school-record 34 points in the fourth period for the win and remained atop the MAC West standings at 3-0. Turner gained 195 of his 222 yards in the second half and 126 over the final 15 minutes.

Turner averaged a gaudy 11.1 yards per carry against Miami which fielded the No. 3 rushing defense in the league (140.7 yards per game). The five rushing TDs tied the league mark held by Northern Illinois teammate Thomas Hammock (Fort Wayne, IN / Bishop Luers), Toledo’s Joe Schwartz (1971), Bowling Green State’s Dave Preston (1974), plus Central Michigan’s Rodney Stevenson (1986) and Ben Pruitt (1994). Hammock tallied five TDs (9, 5, 1, 15, and 34 yards) vs. Akron in 2000. For Turner, the MAC Player of the Week honor is the fourth of his career which tied a school record set by All-Century LB Frank Lewandoski (1976-79).

Nationally, Turner leads all NCAA Division 1-A runners with 1,094 yards in 194 attempts. Officially, he ranks No. 1 in NCAA all-purpose yardage (207.0 ypg. average), No. 2 in rushing (156.3 ypg.), No. 11 in kickoff returns (26.9 ypr.), and No. 20 in scoring (9.4 ppg.). The 222-yard effort represented the 22nd best single-game rushing performance in the major-college ranks this year. Turner’s 282-yard effort vs. Western Illinois marks the second-best game in the NCAA this season behind Colorado RB Chris Brown who romped for 309 yards last week vs. Kansas. “The Burner” became the tenth 1,000-yard rusher in Huskie history.

Northern Illinois has received eight MAC Player of the Week citations this fall---two by Turner, plus one apiece by Hammock, LB Larry Williams, SS Justin Dole, CB Randee Drew, PK Steve Azar, and WR Dan Sheldon.

Other Mid-Am players honored in Week No. 7 include Toledo LB Tom Ward (West Defense), Bowling Green State RB B. J. Lane (West Special Teams), Miami QB Ben Roethlisberger (East Offense), Marshall QB Byron Leftwich (East Offense), Central Florida DB Asante Samuel (East Defense), and Ohio PR Stafford Owens (East Special Teams).


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