Oct. 1, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois University head football coach Rod Carey spoke at NIU's weekly press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to look ahead to this weekend's game at Kent State. Joining Carey were receiver Juwan Brescacin, quarterback Jordan Lynch, tight end Tim Semisch and linebacker Michael Santacaterina. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Rod Carey
"Obviously the Purdue game was a good win. We completed our non-conference schedule 4-0 which we're really happy about. You know I thought the game, we got out to a fast start all three phases and it kind of snowballed with us from that point looking back at the film. It was good. I'm proud of our coaches. Our players played hard and executed the game plan, so that was good. Now that is over and we are firmly moved on to this week and Kent State. You know I know they've played LSU and Penn State in the middle there, two really tough teams. They're 1-1 in conference, a good win at Western Michigan, which is always a hard place to win.
"They're a good football team and I know [Dri] Archer is back and I know they've got some other guys that are back healthy. So they're kind of getting whole and it will be homecoming for them. It will be a great challenge for us; it's been awhile since we've been at Kent. You know there is a lot of similarity. To us though, it's not a rematch of anything last year or anything like that. Two brand new teams in a new venue in a different part of the season upon us. So it's going to be a tough game. Coach Haynes has them going in the right direction and they're going to be on cloud nine for us and ready to roll."
On the significance of a MAC school going undefeated in non-conference play
"I don't know. I mean I'm sure it's good. You know it's hard. Those questions are questions in January that I'll have a lot better perspective on. Right now I just don't have much of an outside perspective on any thing. We open up conference and that's what we got."
On if the first conference game starts a second season feeling
"Yeah, you are 0-0 now, you really are. No matter what you did in non-conference with the way our schedule is set up where you are playing all your non-conference in a row and then getting all conference, it really didn't matter if you were 4-0 or 0-4. Everything is still in front of everyone one in this conference. Us included."
On getting off to a fast start at Purdue
"Well we did some things different in practice. We changed up our routine to kind of shake things loose a little bit. Sometimes you can get really good at practice. What I mean by that is if you are running the same drills and doing the same drills at the same time during practice, sometimes you get good at those. That's really a false sense security. We took and changed a lot of things up last week to kind of wake them up a little bit and we'll do that again this week."
On the intensity and changes in practice
"We just moved things around. When we were doing what so they didn't really have a rhythm. Start fast and then go to another time and get it up again. Just changing what we are doing when. Listen the farther you go in practice, through the course of the year, your practices have to be more intense. Now when I'm saying that I'm not saying we're going to hit full and all that stuff. They have to be mentally and technique wise challenged everyday. So we all have to push through that."
On the similarities and differences of Kent State verses last year's team
"Well I think for the most part, the systems are the same in all three phases. Offense defense and the kicking game you see a lot of similarities. Now there are subtle differences. It's not the exact same players they had last year. Now some of the main differences are the small detail things. Like their quarterback is playing better so they are doing a little more with him run game wise. Defensively they got some new faces in there so they are not doing quite as much as they've done in the past but they are still doing quite a bit. Then kicking game wise, Dri has been out for a couple games so you saw some other guys back there running some different schemes for them then maybe you would see for."
On what the defensive stats mean to the team
"Yeah, I think stats lie and tell the truth all at the same time. I've said that to you guys from the beginning. I'm not a big numbers guy. I go off what I see and our defense had been playing opportunistically. Now, would we like you have better numbers? Yes. Other than that, I've been pleased and there are always things to cleanup. I think stats can give you a peek into some things and other things they can really lie to you about."
On the importance of key stats
"Situational football, today, is football. What offenses are trying to do, they are trying to make it situational all the time by going fast. That's all football is. So if you're successful on defense in situations such as; red zone, third down, fourth down, third and long, and all those different scenarios, you are playing good defense."
On if Kent State's 2-3 record is misleading
"Completely. You want to know how stats lie? Here's how stats lie. So you look at their stats and someone one told me they're averaging like 16 points a game and a 150 or so yards rushing a game. Well you look at last week verses Western Michigan, I think they ran the ball for almost 300 yards, they scored 32 points, and I think they were outrageous on third down. So that's how stats can lie for you. They're really good, and they've proven it. Yeah, I think it's very misleading."
On the difficulties with dealing with Kent State's running back Dri Archer
"He's fast, really fast. Probably the fastest guy I've seen on film. I think me might be a little faster than last year. He's got good wiggle and good vision too and he's a tough kid. Get him on the ground any which way we can. You got to because with him, if you give him a second chance or give him a crease, it's over before you take a breath. They do a great job with moving him around. You just have to play your defensive rules.
"Listen, you are never going to stop him from getting the ball, because if they line him up as a wide out all day, you'd have a way to double cover him and do things like that. When they move him in the backfield they can turnaround and had him the ball or toss it to him. And they do some other things with him that's good. So it's not a situation where you're going to stop, you just got to hope that you get him on the ground."
On if Kent State is coming in with a chip on their shoulder
"I don't know, you'd have to ask them that. I won't answer that for them."
On the play of linebacker Michael Santacaterina
"Well it's the next guy in mentality. I mean his opportunity came and he's stepped up and he's done really nice job. Mike has good instincts about the ball. He can find the ball and kind of sniff things out so any time you have those instincts at linebacker, you are going to make a lot of tackles. It doesn't surprise me that he's made a ton so far. He still is considered undersized and he compensates for that by being smart. Phil Jackson said that wisdom is size and strength greatest weakness. When you're a really smart football player that can makeup for a lot physical areas. I'm not saying Mike has a ton of them, but he has a few just like we all do. No one is prefect."
"Instincts aren't something you can teach. Instincts are either something you have or you don't as a linebacker. He takes his instincts and pairs that with his film study during the week and so he knows if he sees a formation it will register in his head "hey, I know I saw them run this play." So he's expecting that play and he reacts to everything. When you do those types of things with you're preparation, and he does it with such a good sense of urgency to. It's never I'll get to it, it's right now, I'm going to know it right now."
On the progression of the team as a whole after being 4-0
"We've gotten better as a team. Now we're not where we want to be currently in no way shape or form. There are still things out there even from last week's game that we have to improve on and we have to get better. But we've definitely progressed. I think offensively we've gotten better a passing the ball at times. Defensively, we've been opportunistic but still have more to cleanup there. Offensively, we'd like to run the ball a little better. Special teams-wise, I think we've had two fake punts on us. We've stopped one and one has been successful. We gave up and onside and we've given up a couple returns in the punt game. There's a lot to cleanup, sure we've done a pretty good job in all those areas but we are getting better."
On the health of Angelo Sebastiano
"I hope. If you can go in and talk to his injury and see if you can get it better I'd be happy. But no, he's day-to-day and I know this, he's getting better each day I see him. They are telling me spinal cord so it's pretty serious."
On Akeem Daniels' status
"He's getting better. I'm hopeful. I don't know enough about medicine."
On Roosevelt Nix
"I can't wait til he graduates. Every year I've been here, we've had to play him. He's such a good football player. He's probably got the best first step I've ever seen on film and I've seen a lot of people on film. He's disruptive. He's physical. He makes a lot of plays. In my estimation, he's the heart of that defense with the attitude with which he plays. He plays so hard, that he comes out every once in a while because he doesn't have anything left in the tank. Then his tank fills up quick and he comes back in and plays that hard again. It sound funny for a defensive lineman, but you have to try and give him some different looks and do some different things against him. If you just try and line up and single block him all day, he's going to have his way with you buddy. He's good."
On the advantage of playing the first three out of four games on the road
"Usually at this time of year you're in a routine of being at home. We're in a routine of traveling. The one time we didn't play on the road, it was weird. I think we're in a good routine right now. Does that mean anything for Saturday? I don't know. The field's still 100 yards and 53 and a third across, the ball is still oblong and bounces funny every now and then."
On being good in situational defense
"You practice it. That's only way you can do it is you've got to practice. We have third down drill everyday. We have red zone drill every day. We have goal line drill almost every day. We have different first and second down scenarios every day. You can't practice football today without being situational."
On what two victories over AQ teams says about this team
"I think the kids are really happy with it. They put it up there. It's their goal. They met it. What can you say? You can check it off the list, which is kind of good, but it sure doesn't mean anything past the 24 hours. Now in January, it will mean a lot to them. When they're 30, that score will probably be 110-0 or something like that when they're telling stories. That will mean a lot later to them than it does now."
On memories of the 2012 MAC Championship Game versus Kent State
"There were so many ups and downs in that game. They came out and started out really fast. We responded and really kind of took control of the game. Then they took the momentum from us. I think we had and they took it from us. We had to come back and tie it up. We go into overtime and they get the ball. We hold them to a field goal. We had to make a long field goal. People don't remember that kick. That was a big time kick by [Mathew] Sims. That's what I remember, the roller coaster of emotions. I was so tired after that game. It was unbelievable."
On Lynch's improvement throwing the ball against top competition
"Jordan has always been able to throw the football. It is true, two of his games where he didn't throw well were against Florida State and Iowa [last year]. This year he has thrown it good against Iowa and Purdue. I don't know it's so much the competition we were playing as much as it was maybe the plan. I know that hasn't been the case this year."
On if Jordan is getting noticed more for his passing
"We're talking about it here so maybe. We notice him all the time for everything because he does such a good job."
Jordan Lynch, Quarterback
On last year's game against Kent State
"Speaking from the offensive side of the ball, I remember their defense being really good. They had a good scheme against us. They played us well. They're a fast and physical team, and their defense prides themselves on turnovers."
On starting conference play
"Obviously we started out 4-0, and that's good, but none of those games really matter now. It's all about going for that MAC Championship now and we're 0-0, that's how we're approaching this week and how we're going to start approaching the season."
On the offensive rhythm improving
"I would say so. It comes along with building that chemistry and just getting familiar with one another. I would say the more games we play, the more comfortable we get together."
On if he was surprised with last Saturday's performance at Purdue
"No, no at all. We had a good game plan going into the game, we took advantages of their weaknesses, and that's how we should always come out. We should always start fast and with the offense, we've been struggling a little bit coming out fast, and I think with that game at Purdue we started fast and finished strong."
On being comfortable playing on the road
"We consider ourselves a championship team, and championship teams have to go on the road and win games. I think every time we go on the road we become a closer team, family, we bond together and persevere through the game and end up with a victory. It would be nice to get a home game. We do love playing at home, but if we do consider ourselves a championship team we have to go on the road and win."
On Cameron Stingily
"It takes a lot of pressure off of me. Cam is that running back that we've been missing the last few years that third and one or fourth and one when we really need it, and Cam has done a really good job and it's just another element we have in our offense that is going to help us out tremendously."
Michael Santacaterina, Linebacker
On last year's game against Kent State
"I remember not being able to put them away in the fourth quarter. They kept fighting the whole game. Then we went into overtime, and they were tough. Sims had that big field goal at the end to bring it to another overtime. Obviously on offense they have Dri back, number one. Number 34 is back, he's a big back, about 250 (pounds), so they've got a lot of people back and they're going to be tough this year."
On Dri Archer
"To me, he's a lot like Tommylee on our team. He's very fast, very quick. They give him the ball in space a lot. They put him in the slot, out wide, they put him in the backfield. They key to stopping him is just to contain him. You can't let him get running free, and we need to put ourselves in good situations where we can cup the football if he has it and not give him too much space."
On not knowing where Archer will line up
"I think we have to be pointing him out the whole time. Every time he comes out we're going to say, `number one, number one' and wherever he is lined up, whether it's in the backfield or in the slot, it's all about the scheme and how we're going to defend it."
On being situational on defense
"One thing that Coach Carey always says is stats sometimes lie, sometimes they don't. When it comes to the yards given up, that's obviously a concern for our defense, but on the bright side we complete our goals and takeaways every game. When it comes to the red zone, we've gotten better as the season has gone on. We have a mentality of bend but don't break, so if we do give up yards or give up a big play, we just want to live to play another down and try to get off the field."
On defensive third and fourth down stops
"Third down we call it money down, so anytime the offense is in a third down situation, we try to bow up, get off the field, and get the offense back out there so they can go score."
Tim Semisch, Tight End
On how Kent State's defense is different from last year
"I know they changed coaching staffs, but from what I've seen they're still the same. They play really well. They play really fast. From what I've seen on film from this year, they're a lot like last year. They're really physical and they pride themselves on taking the ball away and not allowing the big play.
On being comfortable playing on the road
"I think we handle that really well. Just being on the road, we bond really well. Not even just with your position group, but I can hang out with guys like Mike (Santacaterina) and anybody else on the defense. Also with our team meetings on the road, we're really locked in, and I think a lot of teams might struggle with that, being on the road, being distracted, but I think as a team we come together and keep each other in check on the road pretty well."
Juwan Brescacin, Wide Receiver
On how Kent State's defense is different from last year
"From what I've seen so far, their cornerbacks like to press a lot, that's something that's a challenge for the wide receivers this week. We're going to have to continue to go out and make plays."
On having a large number of passing yards at Purdue
"We knew going into the game we were going to pass a lot, but it was just nice to see we made plays with the passes that we got, and it just showed another threat and another element that we can add to our game against other teams and just another element that they have to worry about. Going up against a Big Ten team like Purdue, and completing all those passes added confidence to the wide receiver group and to the offense."
On the passing success against Big Ten teams
"I'd say that's pretty impressive. It just shows the offense is getting better, people are getting more comfortable with each other, and it's a lot of credit to Jordan [Lynch] too with the reads that he's making. We're just going out and having fun completing passes."