|HUSKIE ALL-ACCESS HIGHLIGHTS
Northern Illinois head football coach Dave Doeren
spoke at NIU's weekly press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to preview the home opener against The University of Tennessee at Martin. Joining Doeren were offensive lineman Matt Krempel
and defensive end Joe Windsor
. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"We're obviously coming off a tough loss. When you play as good as we did for most of the game, it's always tough to swallow something like that. I know there are a lot of great things that can be taken from the film obviously as well. I told our football team after we watched the film together, just to rewind back to 12 months ago to our team and now picture where we are at today. You know, I think we missed two tackles the entire game. On defense, I think we missed maybe a hundred in the first four games combined last year. The progress we've made on that side of the ball. I think our offense fought and strained. I think our young offensive line proved that they're going to be tough. They're definitely physical and they play aggressive, which is what I wanted to see."
"You know, when you lose a game like that, there's always one play. In that game, there were probably 20 plays that if you had over, maybe the game goes the other way. Whether it's a call you didn't make or made as a coach or a kick that barely went in, or a read that you didn't make right at quarterback, or a check you could have made better on defense. There's always one thing that could've possibly changed the outcome.
"The best thing we can do now is get back on the practice field, which we get to do here today, take out our demons on the field, and get ready to get the sour taste out of our mouth in a game this weekend. I've always said, you never want a team to beat you twice, and that's what we're not going to do. We're going to get re-focused on a very good Tennessee Martin football team that had an upset victory on the road at Memphis. For them, similar to us, trying to get a boneyard victory last week, they did that with their opening win, winning in overtime at a Conference USA opponent.
"Memphis obviously struggled a year ago, but I know they [UT Martin] have a very good coaching staff there now, and they played pretty well. They run a blitz 3-3 defense similar to what Army did last year and bring a lot of pressure. They created three turnovers in their game this past weekend. They have a defensive tackle that's an NFL prospect that transferred from Tennessee in Montori Hughes. He's a very good football player. Defensive End, Roberts, number 96 I think is an excellent pass rusher. Their quarterback is a thousand yards away from being the all time passing leader in school history. They have a receiver that transferred from Georgia Tech that's eight touchdowns away from being the all time scoring leader in school history, so they've got some very good football players that were upper echelon recruits. We're going to have to play extremely well, and I think for our guys, that's great they had a great win because it kind of snaps us back in.
"They have a similar offensive style to Iowa, a pro style offense. They do operate out of the pistol, but similar run game, similar change of tempo. Nothing spread wise that you see. They have a good kicker that has a pretty strong leg too.
"We came out of the game very healthy. That was probably the one thing we were really excited about coming out of that game, a physical game when you play Iowa, we came out very healthy, and obviously yesterday we had no school, so the guys had a whole day mentally to kind of rest, which I think was great for them. I look forward to what's coming up.
"I know there are probably questions on the release we had with Coach Dunbar's situation. It's a situation we've been dealing with, like I said in the release, since he got here. It was news that happened pretty quickly after his hiring. With his medical team, and all the people involved, we followed it as closely as we can and unfortunately, the prognosis of it being over at the end of the summer just didn't come through. The best thing, we felt like, instead of him focusing his energy and time on helping us win games was to finish this thing off so that he can come back and not have to deal with it anymore. That's kind of where we're at.
"Coach Carey has been basically in his hip pocket the entire process because there was a lot of days that Mike had to leave to go deal with his situation where Rod was in charge. The players are very in tune with what's going on. We're fortunate to have Coach Carey, Coach Cole, and Coach Uremovich on our offensive staff. We have three play callers in there that know how to organize a game plan, know how to work in those kinds of situations. We feel very comfortable with who we have running it, and just want Mike to do everything he can now from an energy standpoint to quit worrying about scoring points and finish this thing off the right way, so that he can once again be a coach once he's ready."
On positives and negatives from the Iowa game
"I was worried about our offensive line just because of their inexperience, and I was worried about our tailbacks just because of their inexperience. I thought both of them played hard. They were physical. The only fumble that we lost was our quarterback on the sack. The tailbacks ran hard and had a lot of yards after contact.
"The biggest disappointment was that we struggled to throw the football because Iowa plays Cover 2 a lot where they're going to have help on your receivers. They're good enough on inside to be able to do that and still defend the run at times. We hurt them with the run game several times, but it was hard to get our pass game going.
"I was very happy obviously with our defense and with the way our offensive line played. The guys that I expected to play well did. Our seniors battled. Sean Progar maybe had the best game of his career against a good Iowa offensive line. Joe Windsor had two sacks. Victor Jacques, in his first start at middle linebacker, played well. He had a sack and battled. I just think there were a lot of really positive things. It was a clean game. A lot of times the opening game, there's a lot of bad things that happen on special teams, and that didn't happen. There's lot of positives there. Like I told the team, when you play that well and don't get to savor the way you played, it's tough. We've just got to move past that and get on with it."
On the play of the offensive line
"In the one sack we gave up, their guy made a good play. We were actually in a max protection on that play and the tackle just lost his balance. Jordan's got to, no matter what, hold onto the football when he gets hit. They did a nice job. Like I said, there were a lot of holes in there. When there wasn't, the running backs made some things happen.
"I don't know how you say when you have five guys starting for the first time in their career at Soldier Field against an Iowa D-line, when you run for more yards than your opponent and you protect your quarterback better than your opponent that you're disappointed."
On how the offensive line could be so good, so fast
"Well, I think you have to give Coach Carey a lot of credit. He had his guys ready to play. As the position coach of the O-line, it's his job to make them ready, and he did. You've got to give a lot of credit to those kids for believing in themselves, each other, and the scheme. I think Coach Dunbar called a great game for them. He didn't put them in positions where they had no help. There were a lot of plays called where there was help for them inside or outside. We try to not make our guys do more than they can, and that's important. You don't put a guy in a position to fail. One thing we're always looking at play calling wise is matchups."
On Tennessee Martin's momentum heading into this game
"Any time you're playing a team from a lower conference or lower division, you're going to get their best shot. We're going to see trick plays. Tennessee-Martin's not a team that's not used to this stage either. They've played Mississippi State. Obviously, they just played Memphis. They're familiar with us. Actually, Coach Nielsen was hired from there, so I'm sure they want to get after Coach Nielsen a little bit too. We'll get their best shot.
"Our team has played those teams too, so it's not like we don't know what's coming when Cal-Poly played us for four quarters last year and the year before North Dakota played them for four quarters. We'll have to play good football to win."
On the offensive line improving as the season moves forward
"I think it's a great game to grow on. There was a ton of information in that game when you watch it, for those guys to get better. The biggest thing that I was proud of was that our guys expected to win that game. They played to win. They strained. They weren't afraid of Iowa and went right after them. We played all the way until the end. That was the best thing I saw on the film. Even to the two-point play. The last play of the game, we hit their quarterback the hardest we hit him all game on that play. Whoever we play, I know what I'm going to get: some tough guys who swing hard, and that's what I want."
On the Huskies leading the nation in sacks
"I think that's coverage too. I think we've got pretty good DB's. I think that's part of it. When you're sacking the quarterback a lot, obviously you're winning up front, but you also have to have time to get there. Those go hand in hand. I think our corners and our safeties played a really good football game. We were in places where every catch was contended. There were no freebies in that game. They were hit pretty quickly when they did catch the football, and a couple times they were hit pretty firmly. That's on film, so every team we play sees that. That's what I want."
On the decision of offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar stepping aside
"When it first started, we just laid all of the scenarios out there. Really, we just relied on his doctors to lead the way. Any time there's an illness, I'm not a doctor and either is the person that is sick. They just kind of said, "Hey, we think, if you do this, it's going to work," and we followed it. When it didn't, we said okay, what's the next thing? We always looked at the timelines and we kind of knew if it got to the season that we'd have to make some decisions.
"The hope all along, because the doctor said it was a possibility, was that it'd be over with before we started. Once it wasn't, we knew that the season is a grind, and I don't want to be putting Mike in a position where he's working all these hours on football and making his body tired in the process. I think all of the focus needed to go towards winning the battle away from here. He, his wife, myself, and his doctors, all agreed that was the best thing."
On if coach Dunbar's health and role with the team
"I'm not going to disclose the information because of privacy. Because of the NCAA bylaw, we are allowed to re-assign duties based on the situation at hand. We promoted Joe Tripodi so that we had another guy that can recruit because Mike will no longer be recruiting for us while he's dealing with this. Joe had been coaching our tight ends anyway, so there is no change there.
"Then Rod, instead of just being the run game coordinator, now moves to calling the plays. Mike will have the ability, if he feels well and wants to get out of the house, to come over here to hang out. He won't be putting game plans together, calling plays, or recruiting. Like anybody else that comes over, if he wants to hang out, watch practice, and be around the guys, he's going to be able to do that."
On particular areas of concern in Saturday's game against UT Martin
"They have a receiver and a quarterback. I think if we can disrupt the quarterback, if we can get in that receiver's hip pocket and make him make tough plays, I feel good about our matchups on the line of scrimmage if we play with good technique. Those are the two guys that I think are playing at a really high level for them.
"Defensively, their nose guard is as good as we'll see. He's a big old guy that can run, and he has some good pass rush moves. No. 96 has a high motor. Those are the guys that when I turn the film on, look like guys that could play in our conference right away. Those are the biggest things. I think in a game like this, particularly coming off a tough loss, the game's not really about them as much as it's really about us. We just need to take mistakes off of the film. That'll be our challenge this week. I want you to look better on tape next week when you watch it than you did this week. That's what we need to try to do."
On looking to improve the passing game this week
"I think you'd like to say that. I think our offense is built around taking what they give you. Iowa played hard corners a lot, where when you look out there, there aren't any throws. For us, with our offense, if they're going to loosen the box up, then we're going to run. We're going to run all day if that's what they want us to do, and that's fine. We're going to take the numbers. If they're going to pack it all the way down like Iowa did a couple of times, if you remember the shots we took down the field, those are all plays that there were no safeties in the middle of the field. If they're going to go Cover Zero, we're going to take advantage of that.
"We believe in our playmakers. We believe in our quarterback's ability to throw, and we'll take what you give us. I would like to see our tailbacks get more involved, whether it's this week or next week. I think Leighton [Settle] and Jamal [Womble] showed that they're going to break some tackles, and that they have good vision. I think those guys will get more carries because of that."
On Jordan's ability to audible at the line
"There are certain times that we'll allow that, and there are certain times when we don't. It just depends on the play call. A lot of the stuff we do could be double called in the huddle. Because of the speed we go at, there's not a ton of audibling taking place."
On the use of tight end position
"That wasn't all by design. There was one play where we were going to the tight end and we couldn't get the ball to him because of a pass rush situation. The snap that went over Jordan's head was a pass for the tight end as well so there was two play calls for sure. Sometimes it is just the progression you don't get to them because they are the second guy in the read and the first guy is there. We did use them in protection. Those guys played really well in the game. It's just that we didn't feature them with the throwing game."
On Jordan's throwing ability
"There were four drops so that hurts you numbers-wise. That changes his statistics pretty quickly. If those passes are completed one of them was a big play. The one we threw it out to the tail back and there was no body out there and we had two lead blockers out in front him. That changes the momentum of the game. I wasn't concerned. The one he threw up to Perez was a really nice throw and sometimes Perez makes a lot of those catches.
"It's his first game for him. He didn't throw any interceptions. He had a scramble in the red zone where a lot of new quarterbacks would have thrown it up and thrown a pick. He didn't he threw it away and he made some really good decisions in the game. If you watch Iowa football, you know they play really tight coverage the re route people they play cover to boundary where you can't throw too the short side of the field a lot and that what it is. You got be able to run the football to win against that football team. You got to take your shots when you get them and make them count. I felt like we did that for the most part. We just missed a couple of plays."
On the success of the quarterback draw
"Obviously we thought it would work. I didn't know he could out run the team the way he did. We felt good when we spread the out because that what they do they widen their box and that's usually why Northwestern and Indiana and teams like that have success against Iowa because they do defend the perimeter with bodies. Opens it up inside. They put a lot on their defense line."
On the current 15-game home winning streak
"Like to keep it that way. Huskie Stadium has been very good here to us. Were excited to be coming home, play in front of our fans and our families. So we would like to keep it that way. Obviously, it's something we are very proud of."
On moving on after the loss
"I guess time will tell. We will get to the game and look at it but guys were in the weight room this morning and guys were at breakfast. I was in here talking to guys and they had a good look in their eyes. A lot of them were pissed off which you like because you want those guys to be angry and the only way to get over it is to get out there and put it behind you on the field. I think we will have a very spirited practice today. I really do. I know out quarterback he came in my office the next day and said I wish we can play tomorrow because he just wanted to play and get it out of his mouth. We will play hard."
On the former Huskies that are in the NFL
"I think [Scott] Wedige is going to be signed today or tomorrow. I'm not sure which team yet but that's the news we got. I'm really proud of those guys. Not surprised, I think they are really good football players for us. I'm happy for them and obviously their agents did a nice job get on the right teams where their depth was an issue.
"Obviously, for Chandler [Harnish] to be on the active rooster with Andrew Luck, I think is a real good opportunity for him to be behind him and there is a lot of good things to come for them and others in our program. There is a lot of attention right now on what going on with the NFL guys coming through. They like our players. They know they will get tough guys that our good kids that play hard and love the game."
On the selecting the offensive coordinator
"Last year when the coordinator job opened, Rod came in and he was very interested in taking the position at that time. I interviewed him. I interviewed everybody on our staff that wanted too. His command of what we do is unbelievable. He's known Matt Canada forever so those guys were like this. Everything that Matt would say, Rod could finish the sentence. I just felt like because of the timing of this thing with Coach Dunbar that's the easiest way to go because Rod's command is by far the best.
"To put Mike Uremovich in that position or Bob [Cole] when they have not used that exact system calling the plays themselves, I don't think we would have as smooth as a transition as we would with Rod. Rod is the one that put all of our run game together last year and we were 11th in the nation in rushing we gave up nine sacks in the pass game. I think he has the best opportunity for us to move forward with what we are doing."
On if the offense changes
"I'm sure there are enounces that are different but you know Rod and Jordan and Bob Cole meet every single day so he is in tune with what the quarterback likes and doesn't like. I think we are very fortunate to have three play callers in that room. We are going to have a great game plan every week. We just got to execute it."
Matt Krempel, Offensive Lineman
On the offensive line play against Big Ten team
"I don't think we are that surprised. We prepare really well and we have been trying to fill the shoes of last year offensive line. I think we all want to reach our expectations for what we want to do so we have some more work on that. I think we overall played very well."
On filling the shoes of last year's O-line
"We were real close with them last year so we understand what they did and we are still communicating with them constantly. We get help from them when we need it and we understand what we need to do to fill those shoes. It's just the process of actually doing it that we need to work on."
On the Iowa game as a confidence booster for the season ahead
"We feel like we can do very well and do the same thing that the offensive line did last year. That being our first start with the entire offensive line and doing what we did I think that really builds confidence and gets the butterflies out."
On close calls with FCS teams
"We have already talked about that in the offensive line room about how two years ago our offensive line was in the same position as they are now. So we wanted to try and avoid that and really study every opponent as closely as we can and as a young offensive line I think that comes in full force for this game because we really cant overlook anybody at this point. We really need to study as hard as we can and I don't think we will overlook them."
On replacing the one returning starter on the O-line
"He went done but he was still there for us and was able to teach his replacement. We have a pretty deep offensive line. If you look at the game we played eight offensive linemen for 5 positions. We really all kind of understand everything we need to do and replacing him he's going to be irreplaceable because he has started for two years. I think we are doing the best we can and going to do pretty well with what we got."
Joe Windsor, Defensive End
On being first in the nation in sacks
"That's pretty cool too see. As a defense we want to be a top defense and want to be recognized as a top defense. To be ranked nationally in one of those stats is pretty cool."
On the pass rush and maybe best ever
"We just got to take it week-by-week and game by game. We really cant say were going to be the best pass rushing team at NIU because of the first game but we can say we can work our hardest to do that."
On sacks coming from six different players
"It does help because the offense just doesn't prepare for one guy or one side they have to respect everybody and trust everybody is in their gap and know that everybody will be there to play."