Sept. 18, 2012
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 vs. Kanasas at Huskie Stadium. Joining Doeren were offensive lineman Ryan Brown, linebacker Tyrone Clark, defensive end Jason Meehan and tight end Tim Semisch. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"I'm obviously happy that we came out with a win. I thought West Point was a phenomenal experience for our guys. It was a life experience outside of the game. I think just the pageantry of that place, how it was built as a fortress to defend our country back in the 1700s, and the fact that we were able to be part of that experience and still say we won the game.
"I think Coach Ellerson and his staff are great football coaches. It wasn't a great game for us defensively obviously, statistically. The positives I took out of the game there the two two-point plays where we stopped them which were four points that we took off the board, the two fourth downs that we stopped them which is like a takeaway to give your offense that kind of field position.
"The negatives, we didn't tackle the way that we normally do. I thought we slid off a lot of tackles in that game which led to a lot of first downs obviously and time of possession. At the same time, it gets our guys angry and gives us a chance to get back on track with what we were doing.
"I'm not concerned at all about our ability to stop the run. I think the first two games we showed by holding teams to less than three yards per carry for two weeks that we're capable of doing that. We need to get back into what we're doing here in playing against, not really American football, but playing against the normal downhill power-zone and stretch that we'll see from Kansas. Some of the zone read and spread principles that they also bring to the table. They're wildcat stuff.
"I was very happy with our offense. You know, one of the things I said to our staff was that last year we had to outscore people at times, and sometimes you get into shootout games. That's just the way it works where an offense gets hot against you, and I think we know that we're capable of winning a game like that now. I know last year we knew we could do it with what we had, but this year I wasn't sure if that would be the case. To know that our receivers and quarterback could get in a groove like that in a game where people were going to say that you're not running the ball by putting everybody in there, I think says a lot about what we can do if we step up defensively and continue.
"Jordan [Lynch] has improved each week as a thrower. I think you saw him in the quick game in week two. I think you saw him in the downfield passing game in week three. You've seen him as a runner for three weeks now. I would still like to get our tailbacks some more touches in the run game. I think we did that in week two. We need to get back to that. Martel Moore played a terrific football game on Saturday. He was a difference maker for us.
"So, we come home after playing one hundred snaps of defense and 86 run plays, our guys feel pretty good. Surprisingly enough, we came out of it pretty injury free. We're getting ready to play a very good team at home. We look forward to be back at Huskie Stadium. Coach Weiss and his staff have done a nice job. They're playing hard. They're sound, and they're not beating themselves a whole lot. They're tied with two other teams for No. 1 in the nation in takeaways. Some of those are forced, some of them aren't, but regardless, they've gotten them.
"They have a dynamic returner. D.J. Beshears is a really good return man. We've got our hands full, but we know, when you play a BCS team, regardless of their record, they're going to have very good players. Obviously it's a team we played last year, but it's not the same team. They've got transfers from junior college, from Division I. It's a very different football team not just personnel wise but schematically. They're a lot better bunch than we played last year."
On the positives that NIU was able to win shootout
"I hate to say it, because obviously my roots are on defense, but when you can outscore somebody, you always have a chance. I don't want to hang my hat on that at all. I know last year, obviously against Toledo was a great example, we got in a game where both teams were on fire. We could outscore them and win. Just to come out of the Army game knowing that if we need to score 40 points because somebody's putting up some points, we can do it. Our quarterback, its not going to be a deal where he's concerned about throwing 40 passes if that's what we need to do. I think the bottom line when you're a coach at the end of the day is if you can say we found a way to win and you have the ability to find that way through the air or on the ground, then you feel pretty good about your chances. That was the best thing that came out of that game from an offensive standpoint."
On Army scoring 40 points
"I knew it could happen. I've played against that team before. Last year, obviously they didn't play that well here like when they were at Cal Poly and they were rolling. With that staff, we played them at Wisconsin and went into double overtime with them. If the option gets clicking where all three phases of it are playing well the fullback, the quarterback, and the pitch, it's tough. It's real tough when you don't tackle well, which didn't.
"Like I said, going into the week, I was concerned because they just got pummeled which didn't make them look like a formidable opponent, but statistically at home, they're one of the best home football teams in college football. I was concerned about it. I know how our players are when they lose. They usually bounce back, they're angry, and they want to play well. We had to play the military, and they were mad about how they played. We knew we were going to get the best shot from a bunch of very proud, hard-working young men. Like I said, for us to be able to play at their place with their cadets, the cannon firing off, and all the stuff that happens there, I thought it was a pretty good win."
On the concern with the turnover ratio
"We've got to get more, and we've got to protect the ball. It's disappointing. It's not concerning, it's disappointing. We'll get it corrected. Some of them are kind of Jordan [Lynch] having to learn his way through being a starting quarterback. He's forced two balls that he shouldn't have forced this year, and that's part of playing the position. You've got to learn when should I just throw it out of bounds and live to play another down. One of the fumbles wasn't a fumble. Replay has said that now, that should have been overturned. That's just the way it is.
"Defensively, we've forced three fumbles that have bounced right back to our opponent, and that's the difference. Sometimes the ball just bounces right into your hands, and you run for a touchdown. Sometimes it bounces right to their guy. Their last touchdown, I don't know if you guys saw it or not, but they fumbled the snap, missed the handoff, and then ran for a touchdown. They had some things going their way in that game where sometimes you need to have breaks, and they got them. I think turnovers do come in bunches. I think our guys will keep working on it. Last year, I think we forced 16 in the last four games. It's just a matter of continuing to work on it and work on it and all of the sudden, they start coming. Offensively, we can't turn the football over, we've got to fix that problem."
On the importance of forcing turnovers
"We do it every day. The first thing we do if you come to our practice, after our PAT/field goal is we have a turnover circuit on defense, where we strip the football. We work on back should strip on the quarterback. We work on double team tackles where the first guy forms him up and the second guy pulls it out. On offense we're doing the opposite, where we're protecting the football in three different stations. To me, it's paramount to be a good turnover margin football team, and obviously, I haven't done a good enough job there yet."
On if the players guys bring up last year's Kansas game
"The players know that our details weren't good enough in that game last year. I think there's a lot of things, when you get to that game if you go back in time, on how it went down. We were a young, young team on defense. We had only played one game, and that game was against Army. So, we hadn't really played a game against another team yet. We played poorly. We couldn't get off the field on third down. We missed a bunch of sacks in that game. I think any time you lose and get to play that team again, you probably have that chip on your shoulder that you want to make things better. I haven't had that conversation with anybody, but I know this is a game that our players wish they could've played again last year."
On the chance to play a non conference team for the second year in a row
"It doesn't happen that often, you're right. That's another reason why the Army game was scary to me. We pounded them the year before, and they had us circled for the next year. That always makes you nervous. Just like this one for us. I'm sure a lot of our guys want to play better than they did a year ago against this team."
On the unpredictability of how NIU wins its games from week to week
"Last year, I think if you look at our body of work, the defense got better after the Toledo game every single week of the season. That was just a matter of growth in guys. We had 11 new starter on defense a year ago. In our bowl game, the 11 guys that started were eleven different guys than started in the Humanitarian Bowl the year before. I just think that was a difference in growth.
"I tell our team it's a team sport, and sometimes the offense is going to hold up the defense, sometimes the defense will hold up the offense. In the case of Tennessee Martin, both sides game to play. That was a game where the defense held them to seven points, and the offense scored over 30. They both played well. You'd like to have more of those obviously. The one thing I like about our team is that they understand that both sides can influence the game, and it's their job to do everything they can to pick up the other side."
On the Kansas game being special for Coach Doeren
"You know what, it's not. Last year, it kind of felt a little bit different being a first-year head coach. This year, I don't know if I'm wiser or what, but it's the next team on the schedule, and I wan to win it. I don't care who it is. I want to be 3-1 next week and not 2-2. Kansas is the team we've got to play. I don't have anybody on that team that I recruited. They're at a different football facility than when I worked there. I didn't work for that head coach, so I mean it's just another game. I'm looking forward to playing a BCS team at home. That's one thing that I haven't done since I've coached here. We haven't had that kind of team in our stadium yet since I've the head coach."
On the impact on the program to bring Kansas to Huskie Stadium
"I think it's great. I know Central Michigan had Michigan State at their place and obviously they had a sell out crowd if I'm not mistaken. I know for us, with Kansas coming here, we hope to get the same kind of support from our fans. We would really like to get our student body here this weekend, I think it is a big deal from them to come and support us. I know that our season ticket holders will be here. We would like to get out students here in full support for this game. I don't know if I can do a rallying cry for the student body to show up but I would love to do that. Those guys make us better, our fans. We have a 16 game home winning streak we are defending this week and get to do it against a Big 12 football team. So I think it's a great opportunity for people to see a really good game here."
On the ability to win games in multiple ways
"Well, obviously there is a little comfort there. When I became the head coach, its kind of ironic that we played TCU in the Rose Bowl, what Gary Patterson does with his offense having to defend them is what I said I would try to do with my offense if I ever had the opportunity. What I mean by that is I think our offense tests all the rules of the defense. I always go in there with different things that are hard on the defense not necessarily from a play standpoint but formation and motion. Try to use the different rules in tough spots. I think we do that and I think it lends to reading coverage's and taking what people give you but doing it with a downhill mentality which obviously Wisconsin we had when I was there. I like that because if you can get into the game where you are going vertically at them and gaining yards and wearing them out, from a football standpoint that's what I'm all about. It's being able to get downhill in the fourth quarter and win the game which we did Saturday with Jordan. We ran quarterback power and we needed a first down and got ten yards and the game was over. It was fourth and four and we needed a stop they ran their quarterback and we stopped them. I think that shows our mentality that we are trying to have here as a football program."
On winning games with defense
"Were No. 1 in pass defense because they threw for eight yards last week. A week ago we were No. 1 in rushing defense and were last probably because they ran. We're 2-1 and that's all I'm going to say about that. Those stats don't mean anything, winning does."
On preparing for Charlie Weis and Kansas
"We have gone back and watched his film from Florida and obviously there are some things that carry over although the personnel is different. You can see that things have changed. Some of the things changed around what he has and what he didn't have there. I think they have tremendous tailbacks at Kansas. They have been a little beat up at receiver. I know [Kale] Pick didn't play last week. I'm not sure what his status is for them but he was a players that played well against us a year ago. Beshear is a good player. He had a tight end I know at Notre Dame and at Florida that caught a lot of balls. This year they haven't thrown as much even though he is a really good blocker. They haven't thrown as much to him. They're still running stretch in the zone and they have a little bit of miss direction. They have a wildcat package when No. 3 plays the quarterback spot for them has been a good thing for them in the run game. But he is very similar to what he was. He does a nice job calling the game. You can see his plays within a play. He's always looking for the next thing off of it. He is a good offensive coach."
On facing a traditional offense after facing an option team
"Well it was last year. I mean last year, defensively, we came off the Army game to the Kansas game and we could not get off the field on third down because of that. The kids were just not use to seeing a drop back pass. Fortunately for us the Army game was later in the year so we were build up our third down defense going into that game. Now it's just a matter of dusting some things back off and playing. We spent a lot of time in walk through going back to the basics of our defense and getting in our proper alignments and making or calls and our checks. I think the kids will snap back in pretty fast at practice."
On coaching against an offensive coach as a former defensive coordinator
"Part of the game within a game is you making adjustments and trying to be a play ahead if you can be. I know he does a nice job at that and obviously we will do all we can with our defensive package. I still think it comes down to one thing. I'm not playing and he's not playing. Our guys got to beat his blockers and our guys got to cover his receivers. We got to makes more plays than his guys do. At the end of the game it's not about him or me or anybody else its going to be about the 11 guys playing against the other 11 guys and we got to get those guys ready."
On what a win over Kansas would mean to the Mid-American Conference
"Ball State had a great win over Indiana. I think any time anyone in the conference can knock off a BCS team it helps us from a standpoint of just a respect factor out there. I'm not sure how it helps us in the grand scheme of bowls, but you know the more wins we have the more bowls we are eligible for so it would help us in that stand point."
Thoughts on extending the home winning streak to 17 games
"Our guys take pride in that and I think anybody would. It's our home stadium and Huskie Stadium has been great to us. It's where we practice every day so the guys are very comfortable in that environment. The stands are right on top of you so the noise can get going. It's a great place to play a college football game. From what I have been told, the weather is supposed to be great this weekend so we look forward to trying to continue that."
Jason Meehan, Defensive End
On the inability of the defense to create turnovers
"It's not something you want to get worked up about. It's definitely one of our goals and it's something we need to improve in our defense. We have started a little slow with that goal but were going to get it fixed and going to take care of it."
Tyrone Clark, Linebacker
On the inability of the defense to create turnovers
"If anything, it's just more about attempts, attempts at stripping the ball out. When one man comes in, the second man goes in [and strips the ball]. Other than that, the effort's there."
On if the coaches preach creating turnovers
"Yes. They do a good job getting us ready. We go through a tackling circuit, and a turnover circuit. We do a good job in practice, we just have to relay it to the game."
Ryan Brown, Offensive Lineman
On playing Kansas
"We are real excited. We take a lot of pride saying we are just as good as these teams the BCS teams automatic bid teams. Last year was a really tough game against Kansas and we just can't wait to get back out there and prove that we should have won that game last year."
On being a versatile team
That is something we try to do as an offense. Against Army we tried to run the ball and we had some success and then the started to throw to the side and that is another thing we try to take pride in. If they are going to pack the box then we will just throw over the top of them and we got a great quarterback and awesome wide receivers out there. It's just one other thing that wears the defense because we are so dynamic.
Tim Semisch, Tight End
On if the offense scores too quick, making the NIU defense play more
"As an offense as a whole, we like to control the ball but one of the things that our coaches preach to us is we like to go fast. We do a good job controlling the tempo of the game and giving or defense breaks when we need too but a lot of times when we see an opening in the defense or when we set up a play we like to take it and if we know we can get a big play or a touchdown we want to take that shot."