Oct. 15, 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 talk about the upcoming game in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan against Central Michigan University. Joining Carey were quarterback Jordan Lynch and safety Dominique Ware. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Rod Carey
"Obviously, I'm still pleased with the win. Obviously, there are a lot of things coming out of it to address from the offensive side of the ball. Leading the way in third-down and our lack of productivity on that. When you go 1-of-15 on third-down, it's not just one thing; it's a bunch of things. The biggest thing you lead out with is you give Akron credit. They are a good football team. I know their record doesn't reflect that, but they did a lot of things that caused our problems on third downs. I give them credit but you have to look inwardly and routes were not crisp, balls were not on time, blocks were missed. So, it's not just one thing; it's a bunch of things as I thought it kind of would be.
"Defensively, I'm really pleased with how we played defensively and how we responded to a lot of adverse situations out there. I just really thought our guys came out and played. Now with that being said there are a lot of things to fix over there too. We didn't get lined up and that cost us some big plays and let them drive the length of the field to make it 20-27 when we pretty much had our way with them from the defensive side. So that was disappointing.
"Then the kicking game, it was one of those weird nights where we win the kicking game battle and you still have two kicks blocked. The two kicks blocked, I mean the kid finds out and hour before the game that he's going to handle all the kicks. I'm pretty pleased how he handled the whole game. It's odd to say you're pleased with your kicking game when you have two blocked kicks, but really I am. We're going to strive to get that a lot better this week and go from there.
"Moving on to the game coming up this weekend against Central Michigan. I have a ton of respect for them and their program. Obviously they have some great tradition there and it's always a tough game between us and them. I think historically they have always been real good games. It's going to be a physical game. I think that coach [Enos] has them molded and put in the way he wants them now, which is physical on both sides of the ball and real sound in the kicking game. They're going to challenge you, maybe not so much from no huddle or things of that nature but they're going to challenge you from a technical standpoint and a fundamental standpoint play after play after play. If you're not fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball, you're going to go ahead and be in a real tussle with a real good football team. That's going to be the challenge for us this week to really get ourselves technically and fundamentally sound and execute in those situations."
On Central Michigan winning two games in a row on the road
"Well I know the easy thing to do is point to turnovers and they've gotten some timely turnovers in both those games but I just see it as you can look at the turnovers and they do a good job of that of not turning the ball over and getting some turnovers. They have done that and that's obviously a key but they play the type a way that's going to keep them in a game on all three phases of that game. That to me is more the key than anything else. That's what I think they have accomplished over the last two games on the road too, which is impressive."
On what Carey has learned from the last time NIU played Central Michigan
"You learn a lot from winning and it's really hard to learn from losing. Last time we were up there, we lost. You try and learn something from it but it's hard because you see so many mistakes that you made. Obviously they did a good job last time we went up there and getting a fast start on us and we couldn't recover from it. So that will be something that we look to avoid.
On if the offense did anything different against Akron that was done in weeks prior
"I think it's everything last week. Technically, fundamentally, timing wise and sure, we have some play calls in there that we would like to have over again and do different. So X's and O's all the way down to fundamentals."
On if the recent struggles are a mental problem
"I don't know. I tend to believe what I see. I see those things that we can do something about those things. The rest of it, I'm not a psychologist so I can't play into those things. We can definitely fix those and we will."
On if the struggles are at every position
"Every position took their turn, I can tell you that. The offensive line, tight ends, fullbacks, quarterbacks, running backs, the wide outs, coaches, we all took our turns. This isn't a "they did that and they did that and we got to get this," this is a "we" thing and we were responsible for it and we will get it corrected starting with me. We're working hard on that right now in fact."
On if the team was pointing fingers Saturday
"No, our guys stick together. It's one thing that I think that's the sign of leadership on your football team is, there can't be any cracks in the dam. You have to be one solid group and they were, albeit frustrated and even more frustrated when we all watched the film and we stuck together, and were sticking together. We're not pointing fingers right now between Sunday Monday and today. We're not pointing any fingers but we're all taking our responsibility and doing it. It's the old saying; you pull the thumb before you point the finger. That's starts with me, right here."
On if analyzing a win points to the high expectations of the program
"Maybe. I guess I haven't looked at it like that. Those big picture questions I just don't do well with because I'm just right here and our team is right here and right now. We didn't like what we saw and now we have to move on the a new opponent which we are, but we're moving on in the context of what we need to do with ourselves to get ready to go."
On if the self-evaluation is better to have early on in the season
"Yeah, you'd rather never have it happen. I mean I don't know if there is ever a good time for it."
On how kicker Tyler Wedel can ready himself
"Well he can prepare more. He only knew an hour before that he'd be doing it. Now he can prepare. Now he can really mentally and physically go out and know that he has to handle all the kicks during the week as well as in a game. I think that will make a huge difference in how he performs. He'll be preparing for that all week. Now if we get Mat Sims back, it's easier to dial it back than it is forward. Expect to handle all the kicks and if you don't, he goes back into his normal role. Now we'll have him take the whole load in practice, which will make a difference."
On kicker Mat Sims health status
"Yeah, he's day-to-day. He says he feels a lot better today, which is good news but today isn't a great day to go out and try to deal with something muscular. I mean I'm sore just getting out of my chair. I can only imagine him."
On if the team can use the Chessick Practice Center yet
"No, not yet. You have fire code issues and things like that. You know, when we get in there we want it to be in there and it's done and over with. Then we can have it when we need it. But I know it's getting really close. I'm getting really really excited. I hear a couple of different dates as of now. With construction it's one of those things they could say a date but can hit a snag and it could be two days later or even two days sooner. They've given us a rough time, right around the 26th of October is our mark but it could go one way or another."
On if Central Michigan compares to opponents NIU had played this season
"Not really. Probably the closest one is Iowa with just how physical they are and going to be and how all three phases really fit together. It all plays into itself and so I think Iowa would be the closest."
On if Central Michigan's record surprises him
"With what I see on film I guess I am. I also know that they had, and I'm not making excuses for them, I think early in the year they had a tough schedule like all MAC schools do, first off. Secondly, I think they had some injuries that quite frankly, if that hits anybody you're going to struggle at times. With how sound they're playing, I am a little surprised."
On Keith Harris Jr.
"Yeah, he's having surgery today, and it's going to effectively end his season. We've got to get him in and get him fixed."
On running back depth
"Next man up. All those scenarios you said are possibilities. Best-laid plans go to waste sometimes, so I tend not to plan for that. I tend to plan big picture, so we'll see. Any and all scenarios are possible."
On James Spencer
"I think he's a real sound running back. He has good vision, pretty good speed, and good wiggle. He's a kid who's not afraid of contact, I can tell you that. He throws it up in there, so he's a real solid running back."
On Akeem Daniels
"He's day to day. He's not ready. He hasn't practiced with us yet. I know that he's getting real close, and that is one of the last hurdles, is getting him to practice. So once we get him there, I think we'll feel real good about how fast he progresses. You've got to be careful with the injury he has on when to get him there. That's been the caution, but the right caution."
On James Spencer getting experience this season
"There is no substitute for playing in a game. You can do it in practice all you want, but when you do it when the lights are on you, that's different."
On the depth chart at running back
"We have enough bodies, it's just a matter of the scenario of do you pull a redshirt, don't you? Do you move Ducee (Argeros Turner) in, who's already playing, don't you? All of those things are available to you. It's just decisions, and a lot of it has to do with how it fits into the work week, and how ready are they to go. Bodies isn't the question, it's preparation that is the question."
On Argeros Turner potentially moving back to running back
"There's one thing about a running back, once a running back, always a running back. You've always got those instincts. So I don't want to say easy, because nothing is easy in football, but when you have natural instincts like that, I think getting the guy there and handing the ball off to him comes naturally."
On playing in close games
"I know we've been in them, and we won them. I know each one has been it's own unique situation, and we've risen to those challenges, but there will be another unique challenge if we're in another close one, that will be different from anything we've seen. I know our guys have confidence in the fact that they can do it because they have, does that guarantee success moving forward? No. And would we rather not be in close games? Yeah. But with the way this conference is, you're going to be in a close game every week. It's just the way it is."
On Santacaterina's injury
"We tried him again on Saturday, and he wasn't ready to go, but I think another week of getting him right, and then it may come down to Saturday there again, where we try him and then he can or can't go, so I may not have a real good answer for you until Saturday, but I would assume we'll get something out of him this week."
On Sean Evans' injury
"Not this week, I don't expect him back. He's going to take a little time to get right. I'd say out for this week, and then next week we'll go into that day-to-day mode."
On the offensive line
"I'll say this, and this is as an O-Line coach, and Coach Tripodi will echo it on me, there wasn't too much we did good in that game last Saturday. I don't know about what they did best, because you're only as good as what you did lately, and lately it wasn't very good."
On the defensive line
"I think football is real simple. I think it starts up front on both sides of the ball. You cannot win football games without an offensive and defensive line. You cannot be in a position to win football games. Our defensive line has been progressing nicely. It's not done. They've got work to do. They'll be the first ones to tell you too, and Coach Diersen will echo that sentiment. Have they made some plays, have they been disruptive at times? Absolutely. Do we need more of it? You bet. We have high, high expectations for that group, and they're striving to meet them all."
On being bowl eligible
"I haven't thought about it once. It's nice to be bowl eligible. It means we've won six, it means we have six more to play. At the end of those 12, or possibly 13, depending on what happens with the next six, and then they make the announcement about bowls. You're not really bowl eligible until you're in a bowl, right? Maybe you're bowl eligible because they could pick you if they wanted to, but I haven't thought about it."
On the new bowl game in the Bahamas
"Yeah, sign us up. How awesome would that be? The MAC has got to be ecstatic about that, and I know we are."
On having a target on your back as back-to-back MAC Champions
"It's pretty interesting that this will be our fourth homecoming game in a row, if that tells you anything. I don't get too caught up in that, you just kind of notice some things along the way as you go, because really teams get up every week for every game, I think it's more the surroundings of the team that might get up for certain games. The surroundings kind of make it sometimes like it's something more."
On the team being comfortable playing on the road
"Comfortable? I would say used to. Just the facts are that we've had four and only two at home, so I'd say we're used to it. Does being used to something make you comfortable? I don't know, maybe. The good thing about getting on the road, is when you're at home, you have recruits in, you have a bunch of events, even though you take the team out Friday night and stay separate, still they come back here and everyone is around their families that come in, so when you go on the road it's let's get on the bus and let's drive and it's just about us. So there is a solitude about being on the road that can sometimes bring a team together, so you'd have to ask the guys but you'd always rather play at home than on the road."
Jordan Lynch, Quarterback
On the offense not seeming in sync on Saturday
"The blame there will go on me. I missed a few easy throws there, and that's why we got off rhythm. They were throws I usually make, and I was off rhythm and didn't really give my receivers a chance to catch them, and when I did it was too late in the game to convert those third downs, so I will take the blame on that."
On adjustments on the offense in practice
"I'm sure we'll work a little bit. We'll probably do some extra stuff this week, but we're not going to do anything out of the ordinary. We're going to keep doing what we do and I'll make those throws. I usually make those throws and I just missed them."
On playing the fourth consecutive homecoming game
"It's been 10 years since we've won at Central (Michigan), so we know it's a tough place to go out there and play. Like I said in previous press conferences, we consider ourselves a championship team, and we have to go on the road and win games. We know Central is well coached. They're going to give us their best shot. Road games bring us closer together. We bond better on road games, and we persevere, and I think we'll be just fine."
On playing the first four of five games on the road
"We'd like to play home games instead of a road game any day, but it just so happens it's like this, and like I said, it just brings us closer together going on the road, and it's going to help us out in the long run."
On Cameron Stingily's progression from fall camp to now
"He was really on in fall camp, and he's gotten a lot stronger. It helps me out, I don't run the ball as much. The offensive line has done a good job getting to the second and third level. His game came a long way since last year, and since fall camp to, even though he did really well in fall camp."
On Central Michigan being physical
"My four years I've been here, every time we play Central I know they've been the most physical team that we play. They're pretty big up front, and their linebackers are usually good. They're physical, that's what they pride themselves on."
Dominique Ware, Safety
On playing the first four of five games on the road
"A big thing for us this year to make it to the championship again is winning on the road. We said a few years back that bowl teams win home games and championship teams win on the road, so what we're doing this year and the past two or three years is focus on winning on the road."
On Central Michigan being physical
"They're one of the bigger MAC teams that we usually play. Their offensive line is usually big, and they usually run the ball downhill, so we've got to practice this week by doing our tackling drills and making sure our scheme is sound up front."
On a revenge factor with Central being the last MAC team to beat NIU
"We don't see it as a revenge game. That was two years ago. We have a new team. They have a new team. It's all about this year."