Sept. 20, 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 Cal Poly. Joining Doeren were wide receiver Perez Ashford, linebacker Jordan Delegal, defensive lineman Kyle Jenkins, and right tackle Keith Otis. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"Coming off a tough loss to Wisconsin, a very good football team. Had a nice game going there early on and took a risk that I would take again. I told our guys all week, if we scored early, we'd try to get some momentum going in the game. Didn't work out the way I'd hoped, but when you're playing a team as good as Wisconsin, felt like we needed to generate some momentum early."
"Come back here and get ready to play a Cal Poly team at home this week. Cal Poly is a good football team, returns 50 lettermen. They have one of the best cornerbacks in their subdivision of college football, No. 2; had an interception return for a touchdown last week. I know Coach Tim Walsh, I coached against him when he was at Portland State. I think he's a really good football coach. Also have another corner, Samoodi, No. 6, that's playing well. Their middle linebacker, number nine, Kennith Jackson, is playing well.
"Offensively, they're a blend of what Army did and some of the spread stuff you're seeing in college football. I know they operate a fast tempo, a lot like our offense. There will be some carryover there. Their quarterback, No. 3, is a versatile guy; a very good threat for them. Their slot back, No.1, Mark Rodgers is also a dangerous returner. That's what we have in front of us this week. Looking forward to coming home and playing in our stadium, getting back on track, and do our jobs."
On Cal Poly's option offense
"Cal Poly does both. They'll line up just like you saw Army line up. Then they'll shift into the shotgun and run the traditional zone read, with the bubble screen game and vertical passing game. They'll run some of the same power and counter-type lead plays that you see in our offense and a few of the same plays you saw Kansas run. Their quarterback didn't start last year, but starts this year. He can do a lot of things; he's a very good athlete. It's a tough system. It's definitely a challenge for our defense."
On how the team reacted to the loss to Wisconsin
"I think it was a reality check for our offensive guys. It's the first adversity they've faced in a while. They're not talking about this season, because really the first two games they scored at will. Going back to last year, I think North Dakota and one of the earlier games in the year they were in, Illinois; were the last times anyone really stopped them. It's been a while since they've had adversity. It's a great lesson for them. I know that Wisconsin is a really good football team, and our guys acknowledge that. I think we left a lot of things on the field. Our guys, when they watch the film, knew they could have played better. If you're going to do that, it's better to do that now than it is later."
On loss of confidence after Saturday
"No. We came out Sunday and had a tremendous practice. I think the one thing you can take from the film is that we beat ourselves at times. Dropped balls, had a couple of procedure penalties that stopped drives - those are things that aren't characteristic of us. So when you look at the film, it wasn't just that we played a good team, I think our guys know that they've played better. When you see that, you know that if you clean things up you're back on track offensively."
On looking past Cal Poly
"They won't look past Cal Poly. Our guys right now know they have to play right, do some good things to win. They respect Cal Poly. Cal Poly played a good San Diego State team and Montana team into close games, and obviously had their way with the opponent they played last week. Our guys won't look past them. They know this is the next step, and they need to have a good week."
On gaining momentum heading into the conference schedule
"You'd love to go into the MAC on a springboard into the conference. We would be a .500 team at that point, and have the whole conference schedule in front of you. Basically, you're a 0-0 team going into league. It would be huge. Bottom line is we need to find a way to win. Get back on the winning side of things. When you wind up a challenging schedule like a lot of the MAC teams including us have done, you're going to face that kind of adversity in the preseason quite often. I know this team faced it last year and rose to the challenge. Being 4-0 at the end of your nonconference is something that probably doesn't happen too often as a mid-major. You're going to deal with one or two games that put you back. And you get up off the canvas and back to work. All of our goals, which I know you guys have seen, are intact, every one that we've set. That's where our focus is right now. Cal Poly is the next team in the way of us getting to them."
On his familiarity with Cal Poly
"That staff is at Army now. So I've faced that staff already this year. I know Cal Poly extremely well; I've been on their campus twice as a college coach, and I've played against them twice. I know what their kids have. I know what their program's all about. It would be good for me to be able to educate our players. Already have started that process. We won't look past them; there's way too many I-AA upsets of I-A teams in the last five years where the guys can't even think about it that way."
On facing Cal Poly's different offensive looks
"I think it's a lot more difficult. Particularly when they're doing it out of no-huddle. You just can't do a lot of things. They're an option team, so you have to be sound. You have to pick your chances as far as pressures in games so your option sound. And when they do break it, you have to be simple enough where your guys aren't thinking. I think that's key for our defense. You saw how fast they played in that first game, and we have to get back to that."
On building on NIU's defensive scheme against Army
"There's a lot of carryover. Even though their formations are different from Army; Army was in a true wishbone, these guys are in a double slot. But there's a lot of carryover schematically. You've got to be different. You need to be able to play them in a four-man front as well, just because of all the spread stuff that comes out of the formation."
On what this game means to Cal Poly
"I think they are where we were a week ago - taking on a team that no one expects them to beat except for themselves. They've got a bye the following week, so they can leave it all out there and be sore. It's a big game. I've coached at that level. I was at Montana for two years, and we played I-A's every year. It's a big-time chip on your shoulder type game for that program."
On risk-taking as being an aggressive coach or trusting personnel
"I think both. Those are all things we practiced throughout the week that looked good. I think the different plays - the onside was in our hands. We had it, but we didn't finish it. Had we gotten that play; their defense was tired, they weren't even lineup up right on the touchdown before it. We could have jumped right back into the same formation and got some things going before they corrected it. Like I told the guys, if we got that kick, we were going to try to get it up 14-0 or 14-7, or whatever it is, get the momentum, get them tired, protect our defense early in the game. We knew the fourth quarter would be a physical fourth quarter if it was tight. The fourth down play, fourth and one, with our O-line and our quarterback, I think we can get that. Fourth and six, fourth and seven - a little bit is our kicker's range at times. The one at Kansas, I think I'm an aggressive coach and I want our guys to play aggressive. Early in the season, I think it's just their way of seeing how I'm going to be."
"I wouldn't say I'm doing things without calculating them. Martel's play at Kansas - he caught and landed on the one yard line, and it was ruled a catch. And they overturned it. I think all these plays you're going to look at as plays that could have gone either way, and two of them could have swung games. Would I do them again? Absolutely I would. They were that close to going in our favor. I trust our players to make plays, and that's what I'm going to continue to do with the talent we have. If we're in a situation where I feel like we need to protect one side or the other, then maybe we'll be more cautious. But that's not where I am right now."
On timing of risk-taking
"It's more about how we're playing than who we're playing. I think that's the same for every team you play. If you're going to win the game, you have to take the game from them. You can't put the game in the officials' hands, and you can't give them plays."
On defensive improvements
"We're just trying to keep getting better. Like I've been telling you guys, we have 10 new starters out there. Even though Pat's a returning starter, he hadn't started at Mike in two years. So there are a lot of growing pains. And there's a lot of scheme that these guys are having to handle. We'll take on five different offenses basically in four weeks because this offense runs two offenses. That's a lot for 10 new guys to have to look at.
"We're trying to keep it as simple as we can. I think you saw in last week's game we tackled tremendously better than we did the week before against Kansas. It wasn't even close. There was a lot of one on ones against two tailbacks that I think are going to make a lot of people look bad. So we did improve in that fundamental. We need to do a better job in defending some passes and being more aggressive in coverage. Each week we'll focus on those things and try to get better as the year goes on."
On expectations of the defense
"In the first game, they played lights out. In the last two, they haven't. Just have to get back on track. Knew we'd make a lot of plays. Didn't expect Kansas to run the ball on us like they did. I knew Wisconsin would be a physical game and I didn't know if we'd hold up against their front or not. That was a question mark I had and we didn't. I think their quarterback changes who they are. We took away their favorite two runs early with the lead and the power, and they just started chucking it. In the past they hadn't been able to do that. They've got a very-talented ball club right now. I'm happy for them - they're going to have a heck of a season."
On Rashaan Melvin's readiness to return to the starting lineup against Wisconsin
"Physically yes. I think he had to overcome the mental part of returning to the game against a guy as good as he was playing against. He had a tough day playing against Nick [Toon]. With Russell [Wilson] putting the ball where he was putting it. With the time the guy had to throw, it was a difficult day for him. We weren't exactly playing a lot of help coverage; we were packing it in pretty heavy."
On Jordan Lynch's snaps
"For one, Jordan's a good runner. They were playing their safeties back and we felt like that would give us some hits on their defense. We wanted to protect Chandler a little bit; he had taken a lot of hits in the game before. He's having a great season for us and just wanted to make sure that we weren't giving him all those contacts. It's a long season. We've got nine games left and we didn't need him to get beat up. Not that he would have, but if he runs it 15 times as opposed to him and Lynch splitting those 15 runs, we're going to be a better football team because of it. Jordan is just as fast or faster than him, so it gives us dimension and keeps us healthier."
"We did the same thing in the Army game. In Kansas, Chandler was so hot I didn't want to take him out. He was on fire, so it was just a deal where we left him in."
On the time of possession battle
"In the first game, we were scoring so fast that there's not a lot you can say. In the second game it happened again, and we didn't get off the field - so it culminated. In the third game, we couldn't get first downs and we couldn't stop them, so I don't care what you do in that game - that's just how it's going to be.
"To answer your question, yes, we'd like to be off the field more. Not going to say we're going to get off the field at the expense of scoring touchdowns. If we do what we did against Kansas and Army offensively, we'll be okay. It's just going to take our defense a while to get better, and they will. We've got faith in the kids and the coaches; it's just going to take a little time."
On facing the defense facing different offensive schemes each week
"If you can get in a deal where you're playing those teams, like we will be when we start the conference, where week in and week out you're seeing it over and over, it's a little different. When you're changing what you're defending week in and week out, that's where it gets tougher I think. And not so much when you have a bunch of starters back."
"Next year, when we're talking, all these guys except for Schiller and Delegal are back on the field. Year from now, all these kids are going to be recalling the schemes, whereas right now we don't have that. When you go from Army's triple to Kansas' spread to Wisconsin's power back to Cal Poly's spread slash option, there's a lot on the plate there. I know last year at Wisconsin we had six spread teams in a row and six traditional teams in a row, and defensively it made it a lot better in terms of carryover from week to week."
On fourth-down calls
"I think the punt is still a great play. It's forty yards of field position. I think everyone in the stands would be happy about a forty-yard completion or forty-yard run. You're changing the field position. What it comes down to is, do you think you can get it, keep the chains moving and rest your defense, we will."
On senior leadership
"When we got off the buses after the game, the seniors talked to the guys in the buses before we even unloaded just about being smart and doing the right thing. Then we came back Sunday, practiced, and had a really good practice. These guys know. The thing that we have going for us is that they were 1-2 last year and still had a great season. They know if they do the right things and if they lead, and the younger guys follow the right leadership, they can still have a great season. There's a lot of great players that didn't play up to their ability last week that are upset and want to take it out this week, which helps too."
Jordan Delegal, Linebacker
On how to be successful on defense this week
"We all just have to do our jobs. And make sure we have that focus and disciplined. Like I've said before, our coaches put us in great position to make plays. All we have to do make those plays and do our job."
On preparing for new offenses each week
"It's football. Everybody's going to think about it in different ways schematically to carve up a defense. And just the same thing defensively, to stop an offense. It just adds another tool to our belt. We've gone against this offense, and now go to another offense. Our coaches are an integral part of what we do and our success as a defense."
Keith Otis, Offensive Line
On approaching Cal Poly
"Even beyond it just being a one-game season, each week you go in prepared. When you go into the film room, you're totally keyed in to your opponent. Everyone has a bad taste in their mouth, so I know everybody wants to come out and play well, put on a show for our home fans, and come out with the victory."
On refocusing on offense this week
"It was frustrating not getting the offense started. We've seen our offense work so well for two weeks, just running up and down the field. That's fun. Saturday wasn't as much as I'd like it to be. Just getting that taste out of our mouth is key."
Kyle Jenkins, Defensive Line
On the defensive lineman mindset
"I feel like, as a defensive lineman, we have to put more pressure on the quarterback. I really feel like we need to set up opportunities for our linebackers and our secondary to create turnovers. We're working on it every day; getting back to the basics, running our pass-rushing game. Just really getting back to the basics and trying to set up our teammates."
On Coach Doeren's coaching style
"Coach Doeren is a very aggressive coach. You can see him on the defensive side of the ball. I mean, he gets in our face if we do something wrong, and if we do something right, he congratulates us during practice and even during the games. He has a great fire to him, and I really like to see that out of a coach because it fires us up as players."
Perez Ashford, Wide Receiver
On going for it on fourth down
"I think it's great because we have an experienced offensive line, and great running backs. To go for it on fourth down, I see it being a great call. I believe in my teammates, and they can get that extra yard. I believe in the coaches and their decisions."
On approaching Cal Poly
¬"Coming off the two games we've just played, this is a must-win for us. No team is taken for granted, no matter who it is. We take every game one at a time and every game seriously. We're going to come out and play like every other game, and look to win."