Oct. 9, 2012
|HUSKIE ALL-ACCESS HIGHLIGHTS
Northern Illinois head football coach Dave Doeren
spoke at NIU's weekly press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to preview this weekend's game versus Buffalo. Joining Doeren were running back Akeem Daniels
, cornerback Marckie Hayes
and linebacker Victor Jacques
. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"I thought our game with Ball State was a great football game. I kind of knew it was going to be that way. Like I said going into the game, we have a lot of respect for their football team and their coaching staff. I thought there were a lot of good players making a lot of good plays on both sides of the field. I was very proud of the way we finished that game as I am with many of our games this year. I think we are an extremely tough nosed, mentally tough, physical, fourth quarter team. Obviously our goal as a staff is to not have to be behind in a game, but to know that we can come back when we do get in that situation and never panic, never flinch says a lot about our winning attitude, resiliency, and belief that our football team and coaching staff has.
"I think defensively, we did some things that kept us in that game. As our offense struggled and Ball State's defense made some plays. Being able to be in the red zone and hold them [Ball State] to the number of points they had, a couple of times to held them to zero points down there, I think that says a lot about the mental toughness our defensive kids have. The way they were able to have two goal-line stands and create two takeaways that were key in that football game. Two of the stops coming after us getting stopped on a QB sneak and then us fumbling, were huge momentum swings. It could've gone in their direction, but didn't.
"Keith Wenning is a great player at Ball State. He threw 71 passes and completed only 40, which was under his completion ratio. The week before, I think we had three of what we consider `touchdown plays' from Central Michigan that were the result of missed tackles. In this game, their big plays, we tackled and stopped them. None of their big plays resulted in touchdowns, which was a goal of ours in the game. You know that the other team, especially if they run 100 plays, is going to make some plays. If you can get it where you tackle them and live to fight another down, I think that's an improvement we made as a football team. I think we need to be able to throw and catch the ball a little better than we did in that football game.
"I was disappointed in the interior part of our run game. I think we did a really nice job of finding some things there in the third and fourth quarters outside with our power read game. Once we got that going, it loosened up and opened up some things inside for Jordan [Lynch]. "Our tailbacks, their numbers weren't great, but if you watch the film, you're going to see a bunch of guys blocking really hard. I thought Leighton Settle and Akeem Daniels did a really nice job of blocking for our quarterback and protecting our quarterback throughout the football game. Akeem had his most complete game in terms of the things we ask. The catch Akeem made there at the end was a huge play to get us in the lead.
"This week we come home, and we're happy to be back in Huskie Stadium. We play a good Buffalo team. On film, they sure don't look like a 1-4 team. They're a team that has a very talented roster. When you look at them as an offense, they're averaged 225 yards per game rushing which is second in the MAC as a rushing team. They've gone of 300 yards rushing three times in the last seven games. I think that says a lot about their commitment to running the football. Their quarterback is similar to ours in how he can run. He can get north and south, and he's a guy that can run through some people. They have a receiver, No. 19 [Alex Neutz], that leads the MAC in touchdowns, averages 17 yards per catch. He has 25 catches. He was good against us last year. He had a really nice game against us in the second half last year. They've averaged close to 500 yards in a lot of their contests offensively.
"Defensively, in my opinion, they have one of the best players that I've seen in a long time on the defensive side of the ball. I think Kahlil Mack, No. 46, is a great football player. He leads the nation in tackles for loss. He's long armed. He's tough. He's on kickoff coverage. He's blocking punts on their punt block team. The guy plays football the right way. I really like watching him, but I'm not going to like playing against him. I think he's a great football player, and I have a lot of respect for him.
"Defensively, they're fifth in the nation in sacks with 18 sacks, so they're an aggressive defense. Lou Tepper is their defensive coordinator that a lot of people know. He does a very nice job. Their middle linebacker, Lee Skinner, No. 36, is playing extremely well and leads them in tackles. I knew him out of high school, and I thought a lot of him. Their free safety, No. 10, [Witney] Sherry, is a really good open field tackler. Those are three guys that we have to be alert for. They're a little bit different schematically on defense. They're a Bear defense. They cover up the offensive line and they get everybody there where their linebackers can really play without offensive linemen on them. We know it's going to be a challenge.
"Coach Quinn is a Chicagoland native. I know this is probably a personal game for him. It was a great game last year where they came back and obviously missed a kick that could have put it into overtime. We look forward to what Buffalo is going to bring, and we know that we've got to play our best like we always do to win this game. We look forward to the opportunity."
On NIU's fourth quarter success
"I think the first thing is mental toughness. I think we're well conditioned. Part of that could be depth, but part of it isn't. There are certain positions that we rotate more than others, and I'm sure that helps those kids. There are other positions, Jimmie Ward played 100 snaps and was playing just as good in the fourth quarter as he was in the first. The linebacker position didn't rotate a lot. Our line of scrimmage rotates. That is one area where we have good depth. At receiver we were depleted going into that game, and we didn't rotate a lot at receiver. I think our depth helps us, there's no doubt. I think the tempo we play at and practice at helps us, and there is the belief that our team has. Obviously our coaching staff and players have seen that it works. Last year we had five come from behinds and this year we have three. I'd love to stop doing that, but if that's what we have to do to win, I don't care. We'll do it. I know Buffalo is a team that plays four quarters, so we were going to have to continue to play that way to keep winning."
On what NIU can do to start as well as they are finishing
"Well, we started well against Ball State. We came out and we were up 14-0. I don't think that's the problem. I'd like to play four quarters the way we finish, but that's not real. I think the other team makes plays too. Part of football is those momentum swings that take place, and they're going to happen. You're not going to go out in the MAC and just series after series punish somebody and never have them have a good play. It doesn't happen that way. I think you've got to endure the momentum changes throughout the game, make the corrections with your players, and then outlast them. That's what we've been able to do and this is a really good conference.
"Like I said in Detroit, I think it's as balanced as it's ever been, anybody can win on a Saturday and you're seeing that. This Buffalo team had Ohio on the ropes, and Ohio is undefeated. Ohio beat Penn State and they had them on the ropes. They (Buffalo) should have won the football game if you look at the numbers from the game. They had way more yards. It was like 500 to 300 in total yardage. They made a few costly mistakes. They blocked a punt. Ohio tried to fake a field goal and Buffalo sniffed that out. They played really well and lost on the road. I think with anyone that we play, it's going to be a four quarter game."
On possible concerns with a letdown against Buffalo
"I'm always concerned about losing. I think you have to be as a coach. I think you have to prepare your guys to win. As a competitor you work you butt off so that you don't put yourself in a position to lose. Just like Buffalo, we haven't had bye weeks. Their guys are beat up. Our guys are beat up. That's just the way college football is until you get a break in the schedule. We don't get one until November. It's a war of attrition, and the next man in has to play his best to keep everything going. The guys that aren't hurt have to continue to improve each week."
On if he thought Jordan Lynch was going to be this good
"I actually did. I had really high expectations for him. I wasn't as concerned about him as I was about what was going to be around him. I knew he was going to be really good. I didn't know if it would be this year or next year because of the youth of our offensive line and just the unknowns at that position. I had really high expectations for where his career could go."
On the focus that Jordan Lynch is receiving from defenses
"I think that they have to, but I also think that we have good skill. You have to be concerned about the skill we have on the perimeter. As long as we can throw and catch, that helps. At Army, we were able to throw the football and they took away a lot of our run game because of the numbers they had. We had to throw to win and we did. As long as we can be balanced, that helps. If we end up being a one-dimensional quarterback run team, then it's a lot easier on the defense. I think Eastern Michigan, a year ago, was in that situation where they were really good running their quarterback and didn't throw the ball very well. It caught up to them in some games. If you can figure out a way to stop the QB run game, then they've got a problem. We've just got to continue to fight to be balanced with what we do."
On NIU's Huskie Stadium winning streak
"Players talk about it and it gets mentioned. We'll talk more about Buffalo and ourselves than we will that. I'm a big believer if we want to keep those kinds of things we have to focus on how to win the game. Every team you play from this point on that's going to be brought up. I don't know where it sits in college football as far as other people but that number is impressive and we would like to keep it going. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it."
On if he expects to see a lot of running from Buffalo this week
"Being a college defense right now is interesting. One week we see 95 runs and then we see 71 passes. It's just the myriad of things you have to defend now. It's tough. Your systems have to be so diverse and flexible and your players, you just can't do about with them any more. I guess you can, but if you want to not re invent the wheel every week if you want to have some consistency in what you do you just got to be really flexible and focus on the fundamentals and recruit your scheme. Try to put guys in it that fit what you do. I think these guys throw the ball well too. I mean I know a lot is said about their running but No. 19 scares you. I mean that guy's a good football player. I know last year we stopped the run against them in the third and fourth quarter. I mean their quarterback was like Houdini we could not get the guy on the ground. We kind of have two plans. If they are running the ball here is what we have to do and if gets to a situation were they start chucking it the whole game then we got to make some other defensive schemes to play the pass game."
On Buffalo being a dangerous team
"I think they are really dangerous. I told our coaching staff, turn on the film; this is not a 1-4 football team. It's just a team that for whatever reason hasn't found a way to win. I think they are really good. I think Coach Quinn is a good football coach that's recruited good players and they are tough, he's tough. I like their style on both sides of the ball and their special teams play hard. There is zero signs of the program doesn't believe they can win."
On what the come-from-behind wins do to the players mentally
"I wish I could put a finger on it. I just think we have a lot of confidence as coaches and as players. Our resolve, the fact that we don't quit we don't flinch we don't panic and the belief like I said and I think our guys are mentally tough. A lot of our players have a chip on their shoulder and as soon as you put them in a corner you are going to get them chest out and chin up ready to go. We put them in those situations as much as we can as a staff. In the offseason mentally and physically with our offseason program and it's definitely paying dividends. I think the leadership on out team helps. We got some tremendous leaders that aren't just seniors but our juniors' leadership in our junior class is really special right now."
On the comfort of coming from behind on a regular basis
"There is no doubt. I don't remember the score at halftime but one of the things I talked about is you have been in a lot worse situations then this. Even though it wasn't at the time, I didn't think we were playing well. I knew if we flipped the switch that it could go our way fast and that is something we talked about."
On Victor Jacques' return
"Victor has got a lot of control over our front. I think the way he gets our defense lined up quickly. I thought he shocked and shed and played well off of blocks. He's still got to tackle a little better. I think that was kind of expected with the absence he had. Having him in there and having a senior presence in the middle, he was physical in some of his re routes in coverage and just rotate him to keep him fresh with Santa was a good thing. I didn't put too much on him in the first game. I think they both played around 40 snaps, which is a good thing. I think from a longevity for him being able to maintain where he is at."
On if there are certain situations he would use Santacaterina
"Not necessarily. Santa understands the pass game really well so when we get into those scenarios we will use him at times but we will rotate. You'll see Tyrone at times playing in the middle and in our dime packages. Jamal will get in out nickel and it just depends what we are doing. More of it was Coach Kane just making sure Victor didn't have too many plays in a row."
Akeem Daniels, Tailback
On the confidence level of the offense
"I have a lot of confidence with out offense. We practice 100-plus plays each day and you know we do a lot to get better. When things don't go our way, we don't sit there and pout or get down on ourselves. We always find a way to get back up."
On why the team is so successful in the second half
"I think it all starts in the offseason. We are running sprints and instead of people letting up before the line, we are actually finishing through the line. When we think we can bench press five reps we try and get six and go ahead and get that sixth rep. I think the culture is here and the players and everybody else does a good job coaching each other up and helping each other out."
On if coming from behind to win games is a positive or negative
"I try not to take it as a boost because I don't want to get to big-headed and the next game it could slip by and we may end up losing. I just try to take everything one day at a time."
Victor Jacques, Linebacker
On if coming from behind to win games is a positive or negative
"We know football isn't just a one half. We know it is a two half four quarter game so we know we just have to go out there with the goal in mind of what we need to accomplish and just go out their and finish it through all four quarters."
On going up against Jordan Lynch in practice
From the beginning knowing the type of work ethic he had I really had no other expectations for him to do this. Going against him every day makes us better. He runs a quick tempo offense. He is a great athlete so you always got to be playing at your best even in practice so you don't look bad in film. He gives you that competitive edge that you need to maintain throughout the week so when game day come it's a lot easier.
On the Buffalo QB being similar to Jordan
"It definitely prepares you for all aspects that come out of Jordan and out of the Buffalo quarterback whether it is running the ball or throwing the ball. You have to be specific in you skill set in your reads to where you got to find out specifically if it is a run or a pass so having that mixture every day in practice makes the game easier coming from Jordan."
Marckie Hayes, Cornerback
On if coming from behind to win games is a positive or negative
"The biggest thing is to just being able to take mistakes that we would have made throughout the game and being able to fix them so we can come back in the following weeks to come back and be able to perform at even a higher level. I think the ability for us to be able to pull out a win like that is a win in the win column and I think when we go on to the practice field today that we can go and fix out mistakes and continue to play at a higher level."
On going up against Jordan Lynch in practice
"Jordan is an incredible athlete and a great leader in my opinion. Just going up against the offense as a whole week in and week out really prepares the defense because out offense is capable of doing many different things whether it is through the air or on the run game. We are going against some of the better players in the MAC every single week till game day. So I really think it helps prepare us every week going into a game."