Oct. 8, 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 vs. Akron. Joining Carey were defensive end Jason Meehan, center Andrew Ness, fullback Rob Sterling and defensive tackle Anthony Wells. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Rod Carey
"You're talking about a good football team. I know I sound like a broken record on a lot of things. Certainly, don't pay attention to their record is one of them that I sound like a broken record on, but believe me, all you have to do is turn on that Michigan film, and you can see that this is a much improved football team. In my estimation, and this is my opinion, I think they lost the Michigan game but Michigan did not beat them. They pushed around Michigan all day. I know they had some opportunities they wished they capitalized on and certainly had opportunities to get that win. So when you turn on that film, that tells you how improved they are.
"Coach [Terry] Bowden is doing a great job in the second year of his system and those guys are believing in it and are executing it a ton better. So it's going to be a good challenge for us. We're at home, which is a very nice thing. Our fans have certainly set expectations through the roof about their attendance and their involvement in our game, specifically our students. With what happened at Eastern Illinois an unbelievable crowd we had there. Our expectations of the crowd are no less for this one if not more being homecoming. We know we will have more alumni around. We want them to be loud when they're on offense and not when we're on offense. Certainly excited about that and excited to be home."
On if the team will watch only watch the Michigan game film
"No, because I'll tell you what, if you watch those films in progression of their season and you see them get better and better and better. Probably, and Coach Bowden said it, the only game they really haven't made drastic improvement from game to game is the Ohio game. That was really a sloppy deal. They got caught with a couple of turnover things. So no, we're going to show them all of them because when you look at the film not just the box score, you see a team that's getting a lot better."
On Akron's ability to push Michigan around
"Yeah, I thought their two defensive ends really got after Michigan's O-line and put a lot of pressure on them. I thought their offense line was moving with Michigan's defensive line. Akron is running the football more and wanting to be more committed to it and they're getting better at it."
On if he is impressed by NIU 22 straight home victories
"I guess if I looked back at it, it's a lot sure, but I'm focused on this one. Ask me again in January."
On playing at home
"Usually when you go on the road you're worried about the routine. I know I do and I get nervous about that, but we've been on the road so much that's become our routine. I'm kind of reversed worried. What are they going to do? They don't have to get up and pack. I'm really excited about it, I really am. I know with the atmosphere we had in that first game, I know our players are so excited to be here because we have a home field advantage and we're going to need that on Saturday."
On the defense's ability to create turnovers
"I think that's really a two pronged question. One, we have strong fast players as a result of Coach [Brad] Ohrt in the weight room and the stuff he does with out players is proven now in year three. Second, the way that we as a coaching staff stress fundamentals and playing square defense and putting yourself in position to make those plays. You have those two things and our guys are in more positions to make those plays, I think that's why they're getting more. You can be in position and still not make the play and still not get the turnover, but if you're in that position more often than not, you're going to have more turnovers. That's what I think. We talk about it all the time and you can't just say it, you've got to live it. We say it and we go out on the practice field and we do it."
On why the offensive line works so well together
"It's an interesting group. Obviously, I was intimately involved with it the first two years I was here and now Coach Tripodi is doing a whale of a job with them. I came in and I had five returning starters from Coach Limegrover when he was the OC/line coach here and that group was really premade and already done. The challenge for me was getting through those guys and bringing the young guys along. What happened in 2011 is that the young guys, who were waiting in the wings, they took a hold of something and they took pride in being who they were. They didn't try and be somebody else. So when their time came last year, we were not going to try to be the Trevor Olson's or the Scott Wedige's because that was a great group. We were going to try to be ourselves. So they have gained their identity and I think it's interesting because sometimes you don't always have it, but they had a cohesion, because there was a gap there. The guys before them had played a long time and now these guys. They knew they were going to be together a while.
"In Olson and Wedige, you're talking about two All-Americans. I'm not saying we don't have that type of player now, but this group is probably a better group head to toe than that group was. They probably don't have the top-end ability right now, not to say that can't be developed and will be developed because that group will be back next year, but they don't have the bottom either. I think overall as a group it's better."
On what the offensive line does do well
"They do a lot of things good and I don't want to sit here and blow sunshine too much. They are feeding off of this. This is what you have to understand, about them. There is a lot to be corrected off that film that they did on Saturday because it wasn't perfect by any stretch. They left a lot of yards out on that field. They are working off of this, and they should be, they got pushed around last year in a lot of key moments and they don't want that to happen again this year. We haven't faced all of our key moments this year, so we have to make sure we're staying hungry, and I know they are. If they're not, I know Coach Tripodi will get them ready."
On if fullback Rob Sterling being an honored offensive linemen
"Yeah, he caught the ball though. He's fired up. He caught a couple of passes. Rob's everything you want in a football player. I love that guy."
On former players coming back for homecoming
"I think so. A lot of these guys are close with the guys who will be coming back cause we'll have a lot of recent guys back. But I hope we get a bunch of guys from 10 to 15 years back as well. Listen, anytime you're coming back to your alma mater, it's a special deal. With the relationships that are here and the family atmosphere that's here, it would be great to have them back."
On how much fan support means to the program
"Well, I don't know from a big perspective but I do know from a small perspective that our guys put in a lot of work in the offseason, put a lot of work during the season and they get so juiced when those stands filled, they get fired up really easy. Listen, I think our team deserves that but on the flipside, our fans deserve a good product and right now I think we got both going on right now. It's not a done deal, on either side of the ledger on that. We've got to string some things together from the fan side and the football side. When those two things collide, good things happen. I just like the look in our kid's eyes when they walk out there and see a full stands."
On the impact of Joe Novak induction to the NIU Hall of Fame
"I don't know if it means anything to me personally except being so excited for Joe. It's so deserved. You look at what this program was when he came and what it was when he left. You can put it up there with some of the great college turnarounds in college history with Bill Snyder and what he did at Kansas State and a few others. I'm just so happy for Joe. It's so well deserved. He just locked his jaw and did it his way. He did it his way through a lot of adversity so I'm thrilled for him. We text and talk about coaching details all the time."
On the status of Keith Harris
"Yeah I don't know about Keith. Usually I get up here and say day-to-day and I'd like to say day-to-day but with what I did hear today from the medical people, I don't know if he will be ready to go this Saturday. I'm hopeful, but I don't know."
On the health of wide receiver Angelo Sebastiano
"We got some good news on him. I'm not going to go into the tech things with A.J. but he had second third and forth opinions because you only have one neck. So I think all of them came back really well and we'll start progressing him back and I know that's what A.J. wants too which is the most important thing."
On the status of running back Akeem Daniels
"He's day-to-day. I don't know. It's weird. I know he looked good this morning running around. We'll see."
On the concerns with Akron
"I think that Akron might want to try and run the ball some more and I think they're being committed to it; which is a good thing for them. Coach Bowden said it, he's trying to establish his program and running the ball is a key thing. So you can see that trying to take hold in there. We have to do a good job in that phase but we have to do a good job with their entire offense because they have a system they believe in and they run it and it's executed very well, a lot better than it was last year.
"Their quarterback plays really good. The kid is putting it on his receivers at the right time. Defensively Coach Amato does a good job. He's going to find your strengths and he's going to take those away and he's doing to try and hide his weaknesses. That's a veteran coach right there that has seen everything. There isn't anything we're going to do that he hasn't seen, so it's going to come down to execution and can we move them. It's going to be pretty simple. I think time possession is the most overrated stat in football. I really do."
Andrew Ness, Center
On the offensive line
"We take a lot of pride in it like that's what offensive line want to do, you just want to run the ball it's a big emphasis at this school because we have a lot of great running backs."
On if the offensive line was fueled by its poor performances last year
"We're definitely fueled by that. Like against Florida State and Iowa, we got pushed around and we have a chip on our shoulder about that. It just makes us want to play better and show people what were about."
On different is the offensive line from last year
"We've improved a lot. We have a lot more cohesion. We're way more physical, and just have better technique."
Jason Meehan, Defensive End
On the effect a loud crowd had on opposing offenses
"I'm not sure. They still had a pretty fast paced offense, statically. It helped us keep the spirits high. We were down but we're not going to give up especially with all these people. I'm not sure if it effected offenses that much but it definitely effected us on defense and that's where it all mattered."
On playing on homecoming
"It's a great opportunity for all of us. We get to see a lot of the older guys that came. It's a real family atmosphere. Everybody's back and they want to see how the team's doing. It really feels like a family when we get a lot of those guys back. We want to come out and perform well so everyone can see we haven't lost it."
Anthony Wells, Defensive Tackle
On forcing turnovers
"Everybody gets to the ball as a unit. In practice, we work those strip drills and taking those times serious."
On how playing in front of a full stadium helps in recruiting
"Having all the fans out there is great. Every time we get ready to come out for the game, looking in the stands to see how many people are out there. The more people the better, the louder its going to be, and make it harder on the away teams."
Rob Sterling, Fullback
On if tight ends and fullbacks consider themselves part of the offensive line
"Definitely we do, tight ends and fullbacks are just an addition to the line. Every now and then they throw us a pass or two. For the most part we're trying to be as physical as possible and dominate the line of scrimmage on every play and create holes for Cameron [Stingily] and Jordan [Lynch] or whoever at tailback to run the ball and have success."
On if he enjoys going right at people
"Definitely. We always rather have the knockdown than a touchdown. That's what we say in our room. We're pretty much there to bring the physicality out and fuel the team. We're not always the person that's going to get the glory for getting the runs or getting the touchdowns but were definitely apart of the offense, and were trying to be on the field as much as possible. In the spread offense the fullbacks and tight ends aren't always in but where trying to make our offense as versatile as possible and create plays for the receivers and whoever is carrying the ball.