Sept. 1, 2009
Weekly Football Press Conference Quotes - Sept. 1
Kill, Harnish, Cox, Hanson and Pirkle discuss the upcoming Wisconsin Game
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois head football coach Jerry Kill spoke at Tuesday's weekly press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to preview Saturday's match up with Wisconsin. Joining Kill were quarterback Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell), wide receiver Landon Cox (Calumet City, Ill./Thornton Fractional North), defensive tackle D.J. Pirkle (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln Way East) and linebacker Cory Hanson (Minneapolis, Minn./De La Salle). Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Jerry Kill
On the confidence level heading into Saturday's game with Wisconsin
"I think every year, I've coached for 26, I don't know that you ever feel confident heading into the first game because there's always an unknown factor that you just don't know about. This is the youngest football team that I've had in a really long time and they work very hard, we feel like we got them in the right position and we are looking forward to the game. I didn't know what to expect when we went to Minnesota. Am I confident in our kids you bet, but until you play the first game you don't know where you are at. You just don't."
On concerns heading into the first game
"Until you play you don't know what those worries are. You can go though practice and you can simulate the game all you want through practice but it's not like going to Wisconsin in front of 70,000 people that have been partying all day and you go to play them at seven o'clock at night. There is no way you can simulate that. There are some guys that practice fairly solidly, but you put them under the bright lights and they go crazy and they make plays, there are others that shine during practice but they get out there on game day and they don't play very well. So until you put them in the game situation you don't know. We're not like the pros, we don't get a few preseason games, we're not like other sports, we throw them out there and you either win or your lose, so it's a little bit different."
On playing Wisconsin in the season opener
"You have to play whoever you are lined up to play against. I don't know if you play those three or four games later on if that's a good thing or a bad thing, I really don't know. They have been very successful in the history of their first games at Madison, Wis. and they have traditionally done that very well. If you look at that you would say you like to play them second or third. But most of our schedules have been put together a long time before we got here so we're going to have line up plays on that schedule. No excuses play hard and see what happens."
"I think personnel-wise, they're similar in the fact that we've both lost some people, key people. We're trying to replace them. They've had some injuries, we lost Kevin Skatrud for the season and things of that nature, things happen. I think both teams are probably looking forward to playing to see where they're at. They've got some youth and we've got some youth. So it very similar to Minnesota last year, we had some high expectations. They had a lot of junior college players, and I think it is a very similar situation."
"There is always an unknown offensively and defensively. I've known coach for a long time and he's a defensive guy, and they are going to be very aggressive, and do what they do. They are going to play quarters and cover one cover three, they're big up front, they run well and they're hard to run the football against, they're going to get eight/nine in the box on you, that's what they do and they've been doing it for a long time."
"Offensively, they've been built for years and years and years, and they're going to run the football. That time you fall asleep they're going to hit you with the play-action pass. They have two quarterbacks and you know in that situation you have to work on shot-gun run game, because you have to figure with that type of quarterback they're going to have a pack. You know that wildcat pack, which has been run 20 years ago, and they just put a new name on it. It's nothing new. The bottom-line is you have to be ready. And you have to be ready for things that you can prepare for. You can't prepare for ghosts; you have to be prepared for things you've seen on film, and things you've seen in the past. And I imagine both of us will be a surprise on one thing or another."
On how line play will factor into the game
"I think it is in every game. Everyone talks about the quarterback and skill players and all of that, but up front is where you win games. Last year, we were very, very good in the defensive line and people struggled against us in the MAC because of that. I think a big key is offensively. Can our strength handle their strength? Defensively, they're going to be huge on the offensive side of the ball. Are we going to be able to use our quickness and strength to be able to handle their big guys up front? That's the determining factor of the whole game. Wisconsin is built more like Iowa, where their physical hard-nose run teams. Wisconsin is going to be Wisconsin and physically, you have to be prepared."
On the pressure, if any, Wisconsin has playing at home
"I guess it is. They're at home and you're not supposed to lose at home. You've got 70,000 fans in Wisconsin and they're getting cranked up. They're at home and you're supposed to win. They've won at home for I don't know how many years, we've played them, and we got them one year. It's a good thing for us, because we get to find out where we are. We'll line up against some good football teams, but I don't know if we'll line up with anyone better than Wisconsin physically. I don't think there is any question about that. Physically they'll be better than anyone we play."
On Wisconsin's quarterback situation
"They'll use two quarterbacks. Is it difficult to game plan against? You bet. You've got to be ready for a guy that can run the shotgun spread out and you have to ready for a guy that's underneath center. Any of those little wrinkles a team throws in, that is time spent in practice on. You only have so much time in the day to prepare. All those things make it difficult for a defensive football coach. Even more so in those three or four games it's tough for anybody because it's a new season. As the season goes, you get better. If you looked at us last year against Minnesota and then saw us when we got into conference, defensively, we were totally different after just a few ball games. I look for us to do the same this year. I think we'll get better as the year goes on because we're so young."
On learning about the team during the non-conference season
"The big thing is we'll find out how disciplined we are. We'll find out how are young players handle playing in front of 70, 000 people, which I think they'll do fine, but we'll see. You get to find out if you're a stronger football team than you were a year ago. Are you a faster football team? Did you find some guys that can make plays? Are we playing team defense? How good are we in the kicking game? I think we'll be good in the kicking game. We'll just have to see. You get those questions answered. There will be a lot of things that happen on Saturday I didn't expect that will be good and there will be other things where I'll go, `boy we worked on that and I don't understand why we're not better at it.' That's why we play those types of games."
On how playing BCS schools last year will help heading into this game
"You can never under-estimate kids. Going into Tennessee, `you're thinking, oh boy. Rich tradition, and all that, I hope our kids handle that.' Last year was a different team. They thrived on that. They played hard and gave us everything they had. This is a whole new team. Each year is different. I hope our football team this year learned from last year's team and that we're capable of not getting caught up in the environment and play good solid football and play as hard as we can play."
Chandler Harnish, Quarterback
On the upcoming season
"We had a great offseason coming off the loss in the bowl game. I think it made us more hungry coming into this year. We took more of a leadership role as younger guys to make our team better. What we did in the spring and what we did in the summer, those things are starting to pay off and we're ready to go. We're looking to get better. Playing in a venue like Wisconsin is definitely going to do that."
On expectations playing Wisconsin
"First of all, I expect to see a big crowd. It's their home opener and a night game. It's going to be a fun environment. Defensively, we are going to see a pretty base defense. They like to bring the blitz. I could imagine they'll do that with a pretty young quarterback. As far as that goes, if we can have a good first and second series, kind of calm things down, and put some good drives together we'll be just fine."
D.J. Pirkle, Defensive Tackle
On what you expect Wisconsin to do Saturday
"They'll probably just going to line up with two tight ends, a full back and just try and run the ball like they've done in the past. That's what we're expecting."
On how to stop Wisconsin's running attack
"The key up front, speaking for the defensive line, we need to stay low. They're big guys, probably over 6-4, 6-5, so we need to stay low, eat up blockers so the linebackers can come down, fill hard and do what they've got to do."
On losing the bowl game
"Losing definitely got us fired up for this season. Winning would have been nice, but it could be a good thing. People realize what we can do. We just need to build off of that."
Landon Cox, Wide Receiver
On the offense
"I feel like this offense has improved from spring ball to camp. We've thrown in new things, taken out old stuff. We've thrown in new things we think are going to work better. Some parts are easier to understand. We made it simpler so we can go out and not think but react. I think we should flourish."
On playing Wisconsin in the first game
"Wisconsin is a great team. We just know how hard we worked and what we've done to get better. We're ready for any opponent. Our first opponent happens to be Wisconsin. That's who we've prepared for and who we're read for."
Cory Hanson, Linebacker
On preparing the young people for Wisconsin
"Defensively, the No. 2's got a lot of reps in practice trying to prepare for them. As an older player, I just try and give them advice and talk about how Wisconsin is, help watch film and give them what I know to help improve their play."
On the possibility of beating a Big Ten opponent this year
"I think we're definitely ready. Any time you play a Big Ten opponent, you're going to up your game to their level. This is a good year for us. It's our second year in the system so we're going to feel more comfortable than we did in the Minnesota game. Stepping into Wisconsin, it's our second year in the system, every player will be able to play that much faster and think that much less. That will improve our game overall.