Fleck, Turner keep N. Illinois undefeated

Updated: October 19, 2003, 3:51 PM ET

DEKALB, Ill. -- Back and forth they went. One play, it was Michael Turner running straight ahead for a short gain. The next, it was P.J. Fleck slipping through the defense for another catch.

It was the opening drive of the second half for No. 12 Northern Illinois. It lasted 17 plays, took over eight minutes off the clock -- and it was all Fleck and Turner.

Fleck had six catches for 60 yards, capping the drive with a 13-yard TD reception. Turner ran the ball nine time for 13 yards.

In a game full of big plays, it was that plodding drive featuring Fleck and Turner that most impressed coach Joe Novak.

"My highlight was that drive to start the second half," Novak said. "That's exactly what we needed."

Fleck had 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 37-10 victory over Western Michigan. Turner had 173 yards rushing and two scores, including a 38-yard TD reception.

The pair are two of the biggest reasons why Northern Illinois is one of five undefeated teams remaining in college football.

Fleck, a 5-foot-11 senior who rarely drops a pass, does a little of everything for the Huskies (7-0, 3-0 Mid-American Conference).

He is second in the country in receptions with 57. He had a school-record 234 yards receiving and a game-tying touchdown catch in an overtime win over Ohio. He returns punts. He even leads the team in singing the school fight song after a win.

And he's exceedingly modest. After Saturday's win, Fleck had little to say about his latest 100-yard receiving game.

"It's not that hard to run out there 10 yards, turn around, catch the ball and fall down," Fleck said. "That's my job."

Turner's job for the last two seasons has been to wear down defenses and keep the offense moving. Few have done it better.

The senior from nearby North Chicago, Ill. is second in the nation in rushing this season, averaging 132.7 yards a game. He also finished second in the country in rushing last season.

Turner, who ran for over 200 yards in a game five times last season, has gotten better as the season has progressed.

Two weeks ago, he rushed for a season-high 199 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Central Michigan. He followed that with another big game against Western Michigan.

"Michael Turner put on a show and our defense just bought a ticket and watched," Western Michigan coach Gary Darnell said.

And for once, it didn't take so long to get started.

After getting off to sluggish starts in nearly every games this season, Northern Illinois opened the game against Western Michigan in its two-minute offense. The strategy worked.

The Huskies scored on their first five possessions, and quarterback Josh Haldi was 7-of-10 for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. Turner had 137 yards rushing by halftime.

"I thought our offensive coaches had a great idea. Because we had been starting slow we had the idea of going two-minute and trying to get a jump start," Novak said. "I thought it worked great. I thought we caught them a little off-guard."

Turner was pulled from the game early in the fourth quarter, which was fine with him. That meant he could spend more time with one of his idols, former Huskies running back LeShon Johnson.

Johnson, who played five seasons in the NFL, was honored at halftime of Saturday's game. He holds the single-season rushing record for most yards at Northern Illinois with 1,976 in 1993.

"To finally meet him was very special for me, because that was like history right there," said Turner, who is second on the single-season list with 1,915 yards. "When Novak was recruiting me, the first thing he talked about was LeShon and the tradition of great backs at this school.

"In the back of my mind, I wanted to give him a little show."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index