Oct. 11, 2011
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 Western Michigan. Joining Doeren were defensive lineman Ron Newcomb, running back Akeem Daniels, safety Dechane Durante, and offensive lineman Logan Pegram. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"Excited about the way the guys played, especially on the defensive side of the ball, last week. Great win at home over Kent State. Loved that our offense was able to get 200 yards rushing again against what I consider to be a very good defensive football team. To hold that defense to zero sacks; I think that you're going to find through the course of the year they're going to have a lot of stuff going on. With their defensive football team in Kent State, I think they did a tremendous job. I was proud of the way we protected Chandler. We were able to run the football. Disappointed in the turnovers we had in the fourth quarter. We were trying to run the ball there at the finish. Very excited for Matt Sims, for what he did field goal-wise on Saturday - taking advantage of his opportunities. We blocked two kicks, and held a team to less than 70 total yards. It was good day for our football team at home.
"Really looking forward to the matchup this week. Homecoming game the 105th played here at our stadium. Really excited about the opportunity to play a very good football team from Western Michigan. Two of the best quarterbacks in the country, I think, are playing in this game and one of the best wide receivers in Jordan White for them. I think you're going to see a lot of firepower on the field. I know both defenses have their hands full this week. I also feel Western's special teams are tremendous. They have a kicker that has 15 touchbacks. They've done a really nice job on the kickoff return; they're fifth in the nation in kickoff return. So it's going to be a great challenge for our football team this week in all three phases.
On the anticipation of this match up
"Our team went up there last year, and it was a four-quarter game. Went down to the final play - an interception. They know how good this team is coming in. I think both teams know that this game's been circled on each other's' calendars for a while. They lost a heartbreaker to us last year. It's a game that we need if we have any chance of going forward towards Detroit. It's a game that we have to have, and it's a game that they want as well. It's two very good teams."
On Western Michigan's offensive threats
"First thing, their receiver Jordan White is averaging 11 catches a game. We have to find a way, if he gets the ball, not allowing them to be down-the-field plays, to be able to prevent him from taking over the game. The quarterback has tremendous rhythm. Last week he scrambled all over the place; when BG took away some of their throws, he took off running. So we'll have to be able to bottle him up. The other receivers, No. 12, Arnheim, and No 13, Ravenell, both are making catches as well in big games. They're an offense that's played well on the road. So coming here is not going to be anything new to play the way they have at UConn, and at Illinois. They're a team that knows how to play on the road. It's going to be a very difficult prep for our defense, and I know they're excited about the opportunity to play them."
On if WMU is the best offense NIU will have played besides Wisconsin
"I'd say it's close. I think Kansas was playing pretty well the day we played them. Their tailbacks and quarterback played well against us. In our conference it will be, for sure.
On defending WMU wide receiver Jordan White
"I think we need to know where he is all the time. You can't just double cover a guy the entire game and defend some other things. When we are single covering him, knowing where he is so linebackers being underneath, and safeties knowing where he's at as far as where the help is in coverage. You just can't be blind to the other two guys. Collectively, they have 49 catches between the other two starting receivers. That's a lot. Many of those catches - No. 12 has one touchdown, but No. 13 has four. You have to account for their wide receivers. I know last year they had two other receivers with a bunch of catches, so they're offense is fit for spreading it around if you take one guy away."
On what Jordan White brings to the table
"Good route runner, catches the ball in his hands, gets vertical after the catch. A lot of his catches are uncontested, surprisingly enough. As good as he is, there's a ton of plays where he's just sitting in zones by himself. That's something you can't let happen. Just an experienced guy; he's a senior, he's played in a good offense, he's played with this quarterback - so they have good chemistry, and they look for him."
On WMU quarterback Alex Carder
"Not only getting to him, but keeping him inside the front. I think we, in my opinion, last week was the first week we pressured but contained. Brought pressure up the middle and outside. There's been other games where we've beat a guy off the edge and then let him step up through a B-gap or loose contain and let him get outside. We have to be very smart about where he is, and our rush lane integrity has to be extremely important to our defensive line this week."
On defensive end Kyle Jenkins
"Kyle had a good game; he graded out well. He's a consistent performer, and that's what we needed up front. He's been able to take advantage of an opportunity. Some of the other defensive ends have been banged up. The next man in principle is something we believe in. Kyle did that, and took advantage of his reps in the fall camp."
On the Broncos' defense
"They have a good defensive front. I think Drew Nowak, No. 92, is one of the best defensive tackles in our league. No. 99, Paul Hazel, does a lot of things in the pass rush for them - plays extremely hard. I think their safeties and corners do a nice job. They know their defense. They've been together for a while. They do a good job of creating some pressure on the quarterback. Like you've said, they're third, fourth, third, fourth, fifth in a lot of the categories. They're pretty steady. They haven't had a lot of takeaways, defensively. We have to continue to do a good job of taking care of the football on our end. I think that's a huge key to this game. I think we're minus-one in turnover margin, and they're minus-four. That's something we need to make sure we come out on the positive this week."
On the importance of this game
"You guys ask me every week if this is an important game. And yes, it's important. They're all important. This being a home game, being the homecoming game, being the game that we're playing - it's huge."
On the emergence of NIU's defense versus Kent State
"I don't think anything really changed as much as the execution did. We didn't change what we were calling as much as how we were playing it. I think you saw the defensive ends finally shut it down at the depth of the quarterback and power to the pocket. You saw defensive tackles maintain their rush lanes and force the quarterback to flush to a guy that was going to capture him, as opposed to allowing him to run through their gap. It's just discipline and rush lane integrity; it's something we didn't have. Again, I go back to the triple option games where we didn't even talk about pass rush or gaps. Those were games that hurt our progress defensively. We won those games, but it hurt our overall progress within our schemes. I think Saturday, our guys did a really nice job of executing what they'd been coached to do. Now they have to do it against a better offense. Kent State statistically is not a very good offense. Now we have to do it against a really good scheme, good quarterback, some good receivers. It's going to be a challenge, I think, for both defenses this week."
On giving different looks on offense this week
"We'll do the best we can. We run a no-huddle, fast tempo offense, so you can't disguise yourself into failure. You have to be smart about being ready at the snap. But we'll do as many things as we can that our guys can handle. Our guys played fast last week, so we can't overload it with scheme."
On his opinion on the state of NIU's three phases so far this season
"Statistically, it's our offense scoring a lot of points. That's a big thing. Right now we're doing a fairly average job with our special teams. Our punter, he's got to lead the nation in fair catches against him. But I'd like to have it a little better than that. I think we've had two balls attempted for returns all season and for a total of two yards. I'm excited about that, and at the same time I'm wishing we had closer to a 40-yard net. Our kicker, I think, had his best week last week, Wedel, as far as ball placement, where we wanted to put the ball, and some touchbacks. So he's showing some improvement. I'm happy to see improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Our offense, even though they scored 40, wants to not have four field goals - they want to have four more touchdowns. So I think the biggest thing we're going to try to do is to continue to improve as a team each week. I'm happy that we did that a week ago; I think we did."
On who's to credit for having the least number of sacks given up in the MAC
"I think it's all of those things. I think we get the ball out pretty quick. Chandler, when things break down, has a great feel for where to go in the pocket to get away. He knows how far he needs to run to get the first [down]. We have four senior offensive linemen that take pride in protecting him. Not to take anything away from Logan Pegram, because he's playing well too. Those guys, four senior linemen and Chandler, are in the same class. They've been brothers since the day they've gotten here, and they take a lot of pride in it."
On comparing Alex Carder to Chandler Harnish
"I don't coach the other guy, I just watch him on film. Chandler, to me, is everything we've wanted him to be here. Off the field, on the field, socially, community service, the way that he handles himself, watches tape, and produces on Saturdays. He does everything we ask him to do. And the things that he doesn't do well, he takes blame for and fixes very quickly. He's tough. I know they're quarterback is a really good player. I don't know him as a person at all, so I can't speak on that. I know that they like him a lot up there."
On how this year's WMU team compares to last year's team
"It's hard to say. I've watched one game from last year. I don't know what they're body of work was. I know they had a bunch of great receivers a year ago. Statistically, I would say yes because of their special teams play, to me, is tremendous right now. I think that's a big area in this football game."
On if Harnish and Carder have a shot at the NFL
"I'm sure they would probably tell you they do. I stopped trying to figure out the NFL quarterback thing a long time ago. They said Drew Brees wasn't good enough. I think Chandler can play, if he's in the right system, with the right coaches, he's going to produce. There's no doubt. Just watching their guy throw the ball at Western, I'd say the same thing."
On Harnish and Carder's mobility
"It allows them to create when things break down. I think that's a valuable asset. As long as they use it to help themselves, and not hurt themselves. Sometimes those athletic guys will ride out of the pocket when they don't need to. It's definitely an asset when you know how to use your athleticism as a QB."
On the MAC's ability to produce NFL quarterbacks
"It's hard for me to say. It's a league that's done a good job of developing players that were under the radar. It's a league that plays very good competition. I think the skill in this league at receiver is outstanding. So there's the ability to do that. Not sure why this league's maybe had more than the rest. I know Chandler and other quarterbacks that are playing right now will have that dream and the stigma of playing in this conference that you can continue to play afterwards doesn't hurt you in recruiting."
On keeping the legacy of past Huskies alive
"It's very important. We talked last week about what was going on with the Hall of Fame inductions and Justin McCareins. There were a lot of players that were back from an undefeated season in the 1950's. It's just to honor the players that wore the uniform here before us is a big part of what we do. We talk a lot about former guys and the pride that you need to have not only for your family's name on the back of your jersey, but for the logo that you wear on your helmet. It's great to have players come back and be around our players."
On the differences he's noticed coming from the Big Ten
"The preseason schedule, probably. If you look at all the great teams our conference plays in the preseason. It creates a significant challenge amongst the teams in a lot of ways. That's one thing I've had to get used to. Not really having to have done that in the last nine years at my previous schools where you were playing more even talent or lesser talent. Here if you look across the league, week in, week out, guys are playing underdog roles. Where that sets you going into the league. Second, it's just how good the skill at these schools is. Every game we play, there's two or three guys skill-wise that there's no doubt in your mind that they should be playing at a higher level."
On the similarities and differences between Carder and Harnish
"They're both in command of their offense. You can see the way that he audibles and has command of their system. How he manages the game. How competitive he is. You can see when things break down, he willing to put his head down and get yardage. Those are the things that he and Chandler remind me of each other. Things that are different, obviously the systems are different. They're both no-huddle systems, but he's checking a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage, while we're doing more things based off of plays that can change on books. Where we're not having to audible. Both those guys are tremendous generals of their offense."
Ron Newcomb, Defensive lineman
On maintaining last week's momentum
"I think we just need to build on it. The game's over with; we have to use our confidence and build on that for this week. We have to keep working on our tackling and the things we struggled with earlier in the year so we can get better. Other than that, we just have to recognize things better, and get a grasp of what they're doing better."
On the importance of this Saturday's game
"I think it's a great opportunity because it's the next game. It's probably one of our biggest games of the year. They have a great team. Like it's been said, we're both contenders in the MAC and MAC West. So beating them would be the next step to our goal. Right now it's just about focusing on winning this game."
Akeem Daniels, Running Back
On making the move to running back
"I feel real comfortable. I have a great offensive line to block for me. I think that that experience actually gives me an advantage, switching from wide receiver to running back in such a short period of time."
On learning the running back position
"If you want to be a complete running back, you have to learn how to block, know all the assignments. I'm far from it. That's why I'm still learning; each day I'm getting better."
Dechane Durante, Safety
On how last week's defensive line performance affected the secondary
"It made it real easy. It's good to watch the big guys get back there and take the pressure off the secondary. I have my back to them and I look up, and I see them already scrambling. That's always a good thing. The defensive linemen did an excellent job of getting to him, applying pressure, making him throw the ball way short or out of the way, and just shut them down offensively."
On Alex Carder
"I think he's a good player. He gets the ball out quick; he makes good decisions with the ball. The offense has a good passing attack. I think he gets it out to his receivers very well. This game we'll have to play well to keep up with it."
Logan Pegram, Offensive lineman
On the importance of this Saturday's game
"I think the biggest thing is that's it's a home matchup for us, and it's homecoming. We'd love to say we defended our home turf. We want to win at home, that's the biggest thing for us. I think having a team like Western Michigan come in, where they're good, they're right there with us, top of the MAC. If we want to get to where we want to go, this week we need to win."
On allowing the least number of sacks in the MAC
"It's something we take a lot of pride in. We've given up some sacks that have been on some rollouts that we jab Chandler with every now and then. But it's something we take pride in, and it's something any offensive line should take pride in."