Sept. 13, 2011
|HUSKIE ALL-ACCESS HIGHLIGHTS
DEKALB, Ill.- Northern Illinois head football coach Dave Doeren spoke at NIU's weekly press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to preview the Huskies upcoming game against Wisconsin at Soldier Field. Joining Doeren were quarterback Chandler Harnish, defensive lineman Ron Newcomb, cornerback Dominique Ware and center Scott Wedige. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"Coming off a tough defeat at Kansas. Last-second finish there where we felt we were one play away from coming home happier than we did. I know our guys are excited about the opportunity this week. When you look at a game like that, there's a lot plays - offense, defense, special teams - that could have changed the game when it comes down to a nine-second, six-inch loss. That's what it was. Our guys played hard for four quarters, but we need to make more plays throughout the game, get off the field on third down, and tackle better defensively. Those are the things we'll work on this week as we prepare for Wisconsin."
"Our offense came out and played extremely well. Defensively, we started fast. After we were up 21-7, we just didn't get things going the way we started. That's one thing looking at the tape with our young guys on defense, what we have to do to get better? How can we not make the same mistakes again? When you're playing with nine new starters on that side of the ball, there's going to be some growing pains. The biggest thing we have to do is learn from what happened, try to get better each week, and know that every goal on our board is still there. Like I said after the game, one game won't make or break us unless we allow it to. These guys are going to get back up off the canvas and be ready to play again."
On game-changing plays at Kansas
"There were a bunch of them. There were several third downs where we had the quarterback in our grasp, and he escaped and made a great scramble throw. There were three or four third downs where that happened. There was a busted play before the end of the half that gave them points after the reversal call. The kickoff coverage before the finishing touchdown, where they got out to the other side of the 50 instead of pinning them back. Those were all plays that were huge in the game. I'm sure the offense would tell you that they didn't like going three and out to start the game. Their goal is to score on every possession, and they didn't do that. Whether you win by 50 or win by one, shut a team out or win 59-58, bottom line is we need to win the game."
On bouncing back with the Wisconsin game
"The challenge ahead of us with the team we're playing; they're a really good football team. Playing at Soldier Field is a special deal to our football team. Half our team is from the state of Illinois, and a lot of them are Bears fans, so playing in that stadium brings a special thing to the game. Playing Wisconsin here would be special. Playing them there makes it even more so. I can't wait to get on the field. That's the best way to get over something like that, is to get back out with those guys and start working again."
On learning from losses
"We say it as a team; character is made in the valleys of life, not on the peaks. We hit a valley right there. Our guys are strong, they're competitive, they're passionate - they're going to learn from it and as coaches we'll learn from it. We're going to be better because of it. The thing you can't allow a loss like that to do is let it beat you again. We have to get back, get that same kind of effort, and play a cleaner game this week."
On how Wisconsin compares to last season
"I think the tailbacks are better than a year ago. Montee's [Ball] playing at an extremely high level, and so is James. The quarterback manages the game the same way that Scott Tolzien did, but he's a better athlete. So there's a another dimension there when things break down, or if things are covered up. Defensively, they're very similar. They're very sound, physical, they're in the right place. They're competitive. They do a lot of good things, and they don't beat themselves. That's the big thing. You have to play a clean game. You have to tackle well, you have to get off blocks, you have to make plays when you have them. It's one of those games where you have to play every play like it's the most important one."
On players moving on from Kansas
"There's been a ton of guys in watching tape on their own the last two days. Sunday was a tough day, coming in and watching that film. After we put it to bed and talked about what was ahead of us, you could see the focus in their eyes. Players started coming in - there was a ton of them in there today - you could see that had their spark. I know that they love a challenge, and they have a great one this week. Every time you have adversity, it creates an opportunity. That's what our guys are looking towards right now."
On how players are approaching Wisconsin
"I think they're excited to play. We're not going to get uptight about this game. We've got a great opportunity to play a great opponent. We'll go down there and play to win. We're going to do everything we can to play our best football. If we can't worry about them, we have to worry about us. That's what we're going to do. We're going to go out and coach the very best that we can today on the practice field. We'll watch it again tonight as a staff, and we'll go back out and do it again. We'd all be laughing right now, if we made one more play last week, about what happened. I know how close we are to being 2-0. That is something our guys thrive on, knowing that they can't let that happen again."
On who the pressure's on
"When you're Wisconsin and ranked seventh, I think they're going to have pressure every week. I think they like that pressure. A good team wants it. You'd rather have that than none. They've done a great job - 30-something streak of non-conference wins. I'm sure they're not looking at this game as one they're uptight for either. They'll come and do what they do, and we need to do what we do better."
On having friends on the other side
"Honestly, it's not any different. This week is about me and our guys. When we get on the football field and we play, I'm going to coach our guys. I'm not going to look at their sideline and worry about what they're doing. When the game's over, we'll do what we do as friends and we'll talk, but this week is about us playing against them. That's all it is. They're going to do their jobs as coaches, and we're going to do our job. It's competitive no matter who you're coaching against. The fact that I've got friends on that sideline doesn't make it any more or less. It's just us trying to do the best job we can for this team."
On changes Wisconsin's made from last year
"I think every year you're going to see guys tweak things to fit their personnel. They've lost some good players, and there are some things that Chris [Ash] wanted to do differently when I was there and now he's able to do them. I did the same thing when I took over for Mike. I think that's normal for a coordinator to fit his personality with their scheme."
On relationship with Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema
"In the summer and up until the season, we talk a lot. He's one of my best friends in the profession. He was extremely good to me as a person, and as an employee and somebody I care a lot about as a human being. Once the season starts, all coaches kind of get in a cave, and shut the door. We haven't talked at all. It's more of a text here or there, `Hey good luck this week,' or, `Nice job, saw you on TV this week.' But there's no conversation that goes back and forth from a football standpoint during the season."
On what NIU has to do to win
"We have to start fast, we have to play physical. A key to this game is our ability to get off blocks and tackle. We have to get a lot of people to the ball. They have a tremendous ability to make the first guy miss. Montee Ball is playing as well as I've ever seen him play. Our guys, defensively, have a huge challenge. I know they're looking forward to playing what I consider to be one of the best backfields in college football. When you take Russell Wilson back there with those two backs, they can rotate. It's a great challenge for our guys."
On Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson
"It gives them a QB mobility package. The nakeds, the boots, the QB run-game that they want. They have all that at their disposal. The biggest thing I saw in their opening game is that they scrambled for first downs and touchdowns, and that's something they haven't had in a long time.
"We'll have to rush lanes. As defensive linemen we have to very intelligent. We have to know where he is in the pocket. We have to do a good job of not opening things up and making it easier for him."
On handling the game-week hype
"As far as the hype, I don't think that's going to be an issue. We're going to focus on the details of what we have to do every day. We're going to talk about us. I think that's the most important thing that our guys have to do is improve as individuals. If our players get better each week, as a team we get better each week. And that's what we're going to do. I'm going to try to take as much of the media as I can on so they don't have to worry about it, and let our guys focus on playing the game."
On getting off the field on third down
"First game I liked it, and the second game I didn't. First game our starters held them to six points when we pulled those guys out and played extremely well. In the second game, we didn't get it done. We have to improve. Going from Army's offense to Kansas' offense was a very difficult task. We obviously didn't do well with that task. We'll have to get up off the canvas, like I said, regroup, look at why it didn't work, and try to make it better fast."
On what he learned from Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema
"Bret is a very detailed guy. He's a guy that cares a lot about his coaches and his players. A guy that doesn't cut any corners, does things the right way, and doesn't let the little things get by. Those are all things I think are very important in this profession."
On his favorite memories at Wisconsin
"There's a lot of them. When we won the first bowl game when we beat Arkansas was a huge win. Going down there and playing a team that has three starting tailbacks right now in the NFL. Doing what we did in that game was pretty special. The Rose Bowl berth last year was a big deal as a program, winning the conference, co-champs. We had a shutout one year against Purdue, which hadn't been done in 50-some odd years, and took a lot of pride in that. The entire body of work probably is what you're most proud of. You're there and you look back on the five years, won a lot of games, hosted a lot of good players, helped guys improve and get better. I was a part of an experience with a good staff and a group of young men that was a lot of fun and I grew a lot as a coach."
On coaching with his friends at Wisconsin
"I think if you sat in your office, and two of your best friends were sitting in the same office with you every single day, that's a pretty neat deal. As a coach you work 100 hours a week sometimes, and I was working those hours with guys that I considered to be brothers. That's a pretty neat deal when you can do that. That's the biggest thing I had last year, as the camaraderie that you had with coaching is maybe magnified even more when you have two of your best friends in the room with you."
On playing on Soldier Field's natural grass surface
"We're both adidas teams that are going to have the same shoes. We both practice on the same surface. I know they'll probably do the same thing we will and get their kickers on grass. That's the biggest difference; the specialists having to do some things they normally don't do from a plant and kick standpoint. We'll have a couple different types of cleats that we can wear and get used to on the field. Our guys will pick out the ones they like best. We've talked to the Bears people down there and they say the field is in good condition."
On NIU's offense
"If our offense plays like they have been, they could cause problems for a lot of people because they're versatile. Chandler's throwing and running well. Our tailbacks are playing well. We've got a lot of receivers that can rotate and keep it fresh. Our offensive line did a great job protecting. We need to continue to execute at the level we are and move the chains. I think first down offense is key. Once we get the first downs going and get our tempo the way we like it, it creates problems for defenses. Whether we can do that to Wisconsin or not, we'll find out. That's the goal, obviously. Coach Canada wants to continue to get better each week, just like we want to continue to get better across the board as a football team."
On putting last week in perspective
"I said it to our guys, we just went from the highest of highs to lowest of lows in five days. That's part of the profession. Your work is out there for everybody to look at every Saturday, and it's either a win or a loss at the end of the day. And we didn't do enough to win as a team, as a coaching staff. It always hurts when you look at your work that way and take it as personal as I do. Obviously you're going to lose some games. You hate losing them the way we did, but you have to learn from it and get better."
On if he will enjoy playing at Soldier Field
"I think our players will. They'll have a lot of friends and family there. We've done a very good job as an administration, trying to get people in the stands in Huskie colors. I'm excited to see the turnout. The good thing is that both of us wear red. Not sure how that'll look, but I know our guys are excited to play."
Scott Wedige, Center
On getting over the loss
"For us, it's a 24-hour rule after a loss. Even after a win, 24 hours; you can't get too high or too low. You have to move on because if you hold onto that loss or win, it's going to affect the next week. Chandler, myself, and these guys went in, watched film, watched the UNLV, the Oregon tape, the blitz reel. Just getting prepared, mentally ready, to go for the next week. It's a big game, another BCS opponent, and we're all excited for it."
On coach Doeren
"Coach Doeren's a great guy. The first day he came in here, he was an easy guy to respect. He gave back to us and is a players' coach, like Chandler said. He said after the Kansas game, `You have to swallow this one. And now it's time to face Wisconsin.' He finally said it. He always said that we can't worry about `that team' because it's always about the week we have. Now he's saying it. And he's extremely passionate. I'm from Wisconsin, so it means a lot to me to go to Soldier Field in an NFL stadium and play those guys too. For me, I'm excited, but like Chandler said - it's just like any other week. Can't get too excited too early, got to prepare, get ready, and hopefully we'll take care of business on Saturday."
Chandler Harnish, Quarterback
On the offense's success
"Confidence is high right now on the offensive side of the ball. We believe we can do anything we want to do, just because we have so many different types of skill sets on our offense. We can run it up in there, we can go outside, and we can throw it. There are so many things we can do with our offense, and we're very confident. But at the end of the day, it's a team game; we lost against Kansas. We need to find a way to score more points."
On being an underdog against Wisconsin
"The pressure is on them. It's not us, it's all on them. They can't lose to a mid-major school being a top-10 team - that's what people are saying. We just have to come out and play loose, play fast, and try to do something special for this university."
On the Huskies' 2009 loss to the Badgers in Madison
"It's very fresh in my mind. Last time we played Wisconsin we had a chance. Late in the game we were down eight points with a fourth down. Ended on a bad note, and left bad taste in your mouth. We definitely have confidence that we can play with these guys, and have a chance to win at the end of the game. We're not scared. We remember the last couple times we've played them."
Ron Newcomb, Defensive Lineman
On Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson
"He's a great quarterback. He's fast and very accurate. When we get to third and long, we have to get a pass rush on him so he can make some bad decisions."
On playing at Soldier Field
"It's a very fun place to play. This'll be my fourth game at Soldier Field. I'm going to have a lot of family, former coaches and friends there. It's just really exciting. It's got a lot of great history and it's a fun place to play, but that's not going to take away from our focus."
Dominique Ware, Cornerback
On Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson
"He's a great athlete. From watching film, he puts the ball right on the money and makes the right decisions on the field. It's up to us to contain him. If we can, we'll have a good chance of winning. As long as we play sound defense, we'll be good."