Oct. 2, 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 upcoming road game at Ball State. Joining Doeren were cornerback Jhony Faustin, offensive lineman Matt Krempel and kicker Mathew Sims. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"I'll open up just about Central Michigan. First of all, I think they're a much better football team. You can see the improvement in their club. Offensively, that is one of the best offensive lines, if not the best that we've played against. Their left tackle, I think, has a really good career in front of him. Their tailbacks ran hard. The receiver, Wilson, for them is a tremendous player. Coach Enos has done a nice job on that side of the football for sure. I think our players really played well. As the game wore on, I felt it was our best offense, defense, and special teams combined effort. There have been certain games where one side of the ball or one of the three phases has maybe been better than the other. In that game, I felt like all three of the phases of our team picked each other up at very valuable times in the game.
"Whether it was the fake punt, or the fake field goal. The takeaways, like Sean Progar's interception coming off the batted ball by Joe Windsor was a huge play which we ended up getting a touchdown off of. The forced fumble by Dechane Durante, which he recovered himself, was another key play in the game, and what allowed us to break the door open was Sims' fake field goal for a touchdown.
"I loved the way we ran the football. I think when you can run the ball for 400 yards, that's a statement. It wasn't like we ran one play over and over and over that they couldn't stop. It was a bunch of different things that we did from formations, shifts, motions, to just blocking people, getting a hat on a hat, straining, breaking tackles, having good vision, and blocking downfield at the receiver position. Jordan Lynch
was making nice decisions in our read game. I was really happy with that.
"I thought, for the most part we played run defense pretty well. There were a couple plays that we'd like to have back defensively. I think the 92-yard touchdown pass, if that's not on the board, it was a very solid day for the defense. Obviously, you can't take those plays away, but you look at them as a coach.
"Moving forward into this week's preparation, this is a team that I have a great amount of respect for. Coach Limbo and his staff, we have had very similar paths in the profession from non-scholarship to I-AA to Division I football. I understand the work ethic that his staff has and how well they coach. You can see the details in their players. I know they had a tough loss last week, and I know they're going to be chomping at the bit to get back in a game with us. They played us for 60 minutes, all the way down until the final kick last year. We know that this is a must win game for them having one loss in the conference.
"For us, it's going to be a tough road game. It's a five hour bus ride down there. We're looking forward to playing them. I think they do a great job offensively. They're throwing about as well as any team in our conference can throw. I think it's not just what [Keith] Wenning is doing with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, but the receivers, Sneed and Smith, are great playmakers. You see [Connor] Ryan, No. 81, making plays as well. The tight end is a very good player, and they look for him a lot in the red zone. The two tailbacks, both averaging 5.7 yards per carry, are very different from each other, but both are very productive. It's a balanced offense with four seniors on the offensive line. That's the main reason I think they're playing so well. They're one of the best teams in the nation last year and this year when it comes to protecting their quarterback in terms of sacks allowed. They've got two specialists, a punter, [Scott] Kovanda, and a kicker, [Steven] Schott, that are both playing at a high level. Those two guys give them an opportunity to win
"Defensively, they played us extremely well last year. I know that they've struggled in some games this year at times, but they have some very good football players on defense. They're young. I think [Jonathan] Newsome, their defensive end, is a tremendous playmaker for them. No. 92 is a Mount Carmel kid that played with Jordan Lynch that gave us some trouble last year. All three of their linebackers have been productive. [Travis] Freeman, the middle linebacker, is playing well.
"Obviously, they've beaten two BCS teams, so it's going to be a great football game. I'm excited for the challenge as a coach, and I know our players will be excited about the challenge given the personnel. They put up 557 yards last week on a Kent State team that plays really good defense, so we know that we've got our hands full this week. We look forward to the opportunity, and playing for the trophy means a lot for both schools. It's going to be a great game."
On how surprised he was that things got out of hand in the second half
"I think any time you start taking the football away and giving our offense a short field there is the potential for that to happen. I think we are a very good fourth quarter football team and one of the things that our tempo can do is wear people out and you've seen that happen in a lot of games where we have been the best team in the fourth quarter and I think part of that is our conditioning and what our strength coach does. I wasn't surprised. I didn't expect it, but it doesn't surprise me either. A lot of people see us score points around here and when we do it usually happens in bunches because of the tempo we can play at."
On what makes Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning so successful
"Very accurate, knows their offense, gets rid of the football, has good protection. He's a tall kid. He's well-coached and knows where to go with the football. He's got good playmakers around him just like Jordan does here. It's not like you take away one guy and you've got nothing. He's got a tight end; he's got three receivers he's got two backs. There are people out there that make him better."
On what makes the Ball State offense so successful
"Just the balance of their offense concerns you. I think if you can make it a one dimensional football game either throwing where they have to throw to win you feel better about it then if they can run and play action make a play and drop back. We still have their screen game to deal with. I think anytime you play anybody and make them one dimensional you got a better chance."
On what he's learned most about his football team
"I think once we finished the second game, after the Army game, I had a pretty good understanding of what our team was. I knew defensively we had more experience but we still had some issues. We you play Army and got beat up and we are healthier this week then we were last week. I think we are back to where we want to be on that side of the ball. Offensively we are a little beat up but not bad.
"The biggest thing, I said it in the paper after the game, I never had a doubt about the quarterback position. I was never worried about that. I was worried more about the continuity and chemistry of the five new players on the offensive line and like I said before I was never worried about their ability. We recruited four of those guys who are playing and we knew they would be good. The offensive line is just a different world. You have a brotherhood that just on that position group where you have got to be in sync. Sometimes it doesn't happen as fast as it did with our guys and obviously Coach [Rod] Carry is a part of that. They did a really nice job getting those guys put together and using their skill sets the right way."
On the progress of the offense
"We knew we had skill. When you can get the ball to guys who can make plays big things can happen. That's why when we lost out offensive coordinator I wasn't concerned, because I wasn't going to change our scheme. I love what we do. I think we make people use the rules of their defense. We make the do it repetitively and quickly. We play physical on top of it, so it's a physical and mental grind that we put defensives through. We have to execute to make it work obviously but with the playmakers we have coming back and the return of the scheme I knew we would only grow because the kids we know it better in year two than in year one."
On what he'd like to see the defense do
"Just keep doing what they are doing. The third down defense wasn't as good Saturday as it was against Kansas. We took a step back in third down execution. Obviously, they continue to get takeaways. I don't think you can talk about that enough. I would like to see us tackle better. I think any coach would tell you the key to winning against a spread offense is tackling in space and there were times when we did that and times we didn't and missed tackles hurt you. Just the fundamentals of playing defense just continue to work on and we are not going to reinvent the wheel and put in a bunch of new things. We're just keep playing and try to get better at those things."
On the matchup against Ball State
"Their offense is good. I'm not going to say it scary. I mean it's a challenge and I look forward to it. You know I think any time you are playing a team that is playing well on either side of the football raises the hair on the back of your neck a little bit more and you lock it in. It's no different than playing anyone else we've played. We have got to execute and so do they. We are going to have the best plan we think we can put together and try to teach our players the right way to run it but they are very good at what they do. I think we are too. That's why I said it's going to be a great 60-minute game."
On talking to former NIU head coach Joe Novak
"I call him when I have questions. I call a lot of people in the profession that I rely on. He has a lot of knowledge of what it's like to play on the road in the MAC. Anytime we travel to a place I've never been too I will call and ask if there is anything I should know about their stadium or the layout or anything like that. He's always been great about offering advice. He's a great Huskie."
On what Novak said about Ball State
"The wind conditions can be similar to ours because it is flat their like it is in DeKalb. You need to be ready for that and the kicking game. Offensively it doesn't affect us because any time you are punting or kicking in the winds it can change things that way."
On Wenning being the best quarterback the Huskies have faced this year
"Potentially. I think the guy from Iowa, coming out last year, we thought was pretty good. Dyane Christ was sure built up and all the stuff about him was a lot of hype. But if you look at the body of work for this season right now you would say he is the best in 2012."
On what makes Wenning so successful
"He gets the ball out really quick. Their quick game and when they throw it down the field they get really good protection. He will run a little bit but that's not his deal. He averages almost 20 yards rushing a game. So he runs adequately enough to make you look bad but he is not a scrambler that can take off and go. He is going to try and scramble and throw if anything."
On if Ball State's record is deceiving
"Like I said, I think they were the best team on the West last year that we played. I thought they were really physical. I thought they were a three-phase football team. I thought they were soundly coached. They took advantage of us lining up wrong in the punt return where the faked it on us. I thought that was great coaching by them. Really when you get to the MAC schedule, I think you kind of throw the records out because a lot of these play such tough nonconference schedules it's not really a fair gauge of maybe really where you are in the MAC.
On if Ball State is better this year
"They are better this year on offense for sure. It's hard to tell defensively, again they have played three BCS teams. Some of them were skill wise really good. Is it a fair evaluation? I don't know. I know last week they were not happy with how they played on that side of the ball. I know last year, when we played them, they had not played well on defense the week before and I thought they played extremely well against us. I know they had a 10-day prep, but I thought they did a really nice job getting after what we did in the run game."
On the importance of having a quarterback that can run the football
"If you are going to run our offensive scheme it is very important to have a guy like him [Jordan Lynch] or Chandler. Matt McIntosh is a great runner as well. So if he gets in the game he can run. The two kids we signed last year both of those guys Matt Williams and Drew Hare the reason we offered them wasn't because they can throw, we thought they could run a throw. It's the first skill set that we are going to look at after we say they can throw passes is how well he can move. Fortunately a lot of high schools now run the spread where you can actually evaluate that part of their game."
On running the spread vs. running a pro-style offense
"A lot of people are going back to it. The SEC in particular, you're seeing a true NFL quarterback again. Some of the better teams in the country are running a NFL system. I mean LSU, Alabama and USC are all in that mode right now. I think it's just a matter of what you prefer. Just being what I've had to defend my whole career, I just think what we do on offense is unique and it puts defenses in tough positions. I think it makes it a tough three-day prep when you are playing a scheme like ours. I like what we do and if I can keep recruiting to fit it I will."
On if offenses have had the upper hand in the MAC and in the nation
"As a defensive guy, I hope not. I think the fast up tempo offenses have added a number of plays that offensives are running now and getting more yards against due to the number of plays you are defending. It's part of the trend I think you're seeing. The creation of the spread where so many plays are in space where one missed tackle can mean points is another. There is just so many different offensive schemes that you have to defend week in and week out now for a defense. It's difficult when you're talking about one week you are playing for us it was Iowa and next week you play the triple option and the next week you play the wildcat against Kansas. The next week you play Central Michigan.
"I think the defensive kids have a lot more on their plate than the offensive kids from week to week when it comes to execution. The rules in college football made it a little more one-sided I think at times. It's harder to defend down the field routes. Obviously, you can't have zero contact really anymore without a pass interference call and you know they really don't call offensive holding anymore. It's just the way it is and you can't do anything about it so you try and survive within it."
On if there is more skill on the offensive side of the ball at the high school level
"Not necessarily. I just think there are more high schools that are throwing so you are finding more guys that fit the spread than you might have before. Everything has kind of trickled down from what we are doing to the high school level."
On if defenses still win championships
"It did for us last year. Our last four games, our defense was the reason we were in all four of them. We had 16 takeaways in the last four games and we did some really good things on that side of the football. A lot off offensives score points. Early in the season you wouldn't have said that. We were an offensive juggernaut and couldn't stop anybody and at the end of the year we were a really balanced football team. I think that's very important when you get into a championship type environment is being able to stop somebody when you have to."
On Lynch's progress
"He fits what we do from a skill-set standpoint. He is very competitive and he's a winner. He is a product from Mount Carmel in Chicago. He was a state champion there. He has the skill set of a thrower and runner and a competitor that you love to have in your offense."
Matt Krempel, Offensive line
On the offensive line's progress
"I think, because we didn't have an experience of starters before this year, I think every week we slowly progress purely because of the experience that were getting. We're coming together more, we're still using all our offensive linemen we have on our roster so everyone is getting a better comrade I guess you can say. We're really intertwined better every week and were running what were good at and really progressing with that."
On the cohesiveness of the O-Line.
"Oh yeah that's a huge part. Like I said that cohesiveness that really goes in making calls on the line, trusting you know what the guy next to you is going to do and the communication aspect of it, if you can't communicate with them and trust them then your not going to be able to play as a unit. So I think that's a huge part."
On Jordan and O-Line
"I think so yeah, because with all the things we can do on offense every play we can do something besides just run the ball. Sometimes we'll be running a run play and we'll pass, and gained yards. It might not have been what we wanted it to be or how we were expecting it but there's always something that's going to happen. Everyone on the field has a chance to make it happen on every play and I think that's something that can spread around the talent and not put it all on our shoulders."
Jhony Faustin, Cornerback
On the toughest part of defending the Ball State offense
"Well they have some pretty big receivers and they have a starting quarterback coming back but I think well be ready for them when it comes Saturday game time."
On the progress of the defense
"I think we got better each week on defense each and each player, individual player got a little better on the things we need to focus on so I think we got better as a defense overall. We've been tackling really well, and forcing turnovers. That's one of the things we improved from last year."
Mathew Sims, Kicker
On the fake field goal
"We put it right before this week started, coach told me right on Tuesday, told me were going to run it and we practiced it all week and executed it on gameday.
"We have a different fake every week and that just happened to be the fake we put in this week that we knew would work. Neir and I knew we were both going to run it, so we were ready."
On his mindset when they called the play in the game
"We knew coach told us from the beginning of the week that we knew we were going to run it so we already had it in our head and it wasn't a surprise at all."