Oct. 16, 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 at Akron. Joining Doeren were center Andrew Ness
and defensive tackle Anthony Wells
. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"I'm obviously excited about the way we played in the game against Buffalo. I thought we started fast in all three phases and executed the game plan. We kept the pressure on throughout the game. I really wanted to see our team be able to run the ball, be able to play catch, and be able to stop the run, which we did. Two of the best rushing offenses paired off in that game and we held them under 100 yards and we went over 200. I think that says a lot about the line of scrimmage and what took place. We were also able to contain their scramble game and their draw game, which had been very successful not only for them during the season, but against us a year ago. We got some pressure on the quarterback with the five sacks that we had in the game. The turnovers we created, including three in the red zone, I thought said a lot about the continued success we've had but the mental toughness.
"The play of Marlon Moore, he had two interceptions, and almost had another one on a play where he and Courtney [Stephen] were fighting over a ball and it ended up hitting the ground. He played really well in his first start.
"Jordan Lynch continues to do what he's supposed to do and make smart decisions, run hard and read the power read and the zone read game the right way. He takes advantage of coverage opportunities that he gets. I thought Martel [Moore] maybe played his most complete game since he's been here. He's had a lot of games where he's caught the ball and ran with it, but he blocked really well in this game as well. He strained on the perimeter and helped some other guys get out on some plays.
"I was happy to continue the streak at home. I'm really excited about that. To be able to win at home is a big deal, and now to be in the right position, the position we wanted to be in, which is controlling out own destiny as we head out into this portion of the season. It was going to be the toughest because of the road games coming up in front of us here with three out of four games on the road. We started off with some games at home. Now to go play an Akron team that's getting better each week and putting a ton of points on the board, then have to got play Western Michigan, another team that throws the ball. I think they're No. 1 in the conference in defense. Then we come home to play, and then we have to go on the road again to play at Eastern. Our last four conference games are unfortunately going to be away from here for the most part. I look forward to the road trips that are ahead.
"Akron leads the conference in passing, and they're ninth in the nation in passing offense right now. They've got a fifth-year transfer at quarterback who has already played in coach Bowden's offense. He kind of brought him along with him in the transition. They're fifth in the league with 33 points per game on offense. They're third in the MAC in total offense. They're about to break their school record in total offense here in a couple weeks. They've outscored their opponents in the fourth quarter, which tells you that they're playing hard. I think that's an impressive stat for any team. We have the same stat. They were doing a great job last week in the Ohio game. They made it really interesting in the fourth quarter.
"I think their tailback, Juwan Chisholm, No. 7, is one of the best running backs we've played against. He reminds me a lot of No. 3, Pierson, from Kansas. He's a slasher. He's fast. He hits the hole in a hurry. He's had three straight 100-yard games. The receiver, No. 15, Suel, has 26 catches in the last four games, a very productive player.
"Defensively, they challenge you at the line of scrimmage. In coverage, they play press man to man. Chuck Amato, I know well. Obviously he had great success coaching at Florida State, North Carolina State and understands how to play aggressive defense. Their middle linebacker is playing well. They have a Florida State transfer, No. 9, Avis Commack, and corner that's 6-3. I look forward to that challenge for Martel and our receivers going against a big corner like him. They have a defensive end, No. 90, that has nine TFL's and 4.5 sacks. They have nine sacks on the season, so he's got half of their sacks. That kind of highlights what they're doing.
"The one thing I will say about Akron, you know they lost to Tennessee, but it was 30-26 in the fourth quarter. They played them hard. They were tied at halftime. They lost to Bowling Green, but they were up 10-0 at halftime. They lost to Ohio and scored 14. [They had] an onside kick, almost got it there and lost by a touchdown. They are a team that's getting better and they're competing hard against the teams they're playing."
On the importance of getting third and fourth down conversions
"Well, the longer you have the ball, the more points you score usually. Not necessarily in time of possession, but in opportunities. I think that's a big deal. If you can run your plays, move the chains, keep your defense off the field, and take advantage of those first and second downs to create manageable third downs, which we've been able to get into a lot of third and threes this year. A lot of people ask why we go for it so much on fourth down. We've had a lot of third and threes that have turned into fourth and less than ones. In those scenarios it gives you that option as opposed to being in fourth and seven. We probably have a different situation statistically. I think good football teams keep the ball, and when they have it, they score. They don't turn it over. Looking at those three teams you just mentioned, I'm sure there's a lot of that going on."
On third down conversions being more important as a running team
"We're very balanced, but I understand where you're coming from. We do pride ourselves on running the ball, but I do feel like we can throw the ball to win. I just think when we've gotten into the fourth quarter of games, we've been able to run the ball for most of the fourth quarter to keep it away. I think something we try to do is wear people down. I don't know if it matters as far as how you get the first down whether it's running or throwing."
On if Akron's record is deceiving
"Well, they're different. When you watch Buffalo, they're really physical in the run game. They had just ran for 300 yards in a game against Ohio. So that was on film. The year before, we played them and barely beat them. Just watching that take place and knowing that we had a team coming in that we knew would have a ton of confidence playing us because they almost beat us the year before, and they almost beat Ohio the week before.
"Akron on the other hand, not that they won't be confident, I think they will be, but they're a throwing football team and has a great tailback. When you watch Buffalo, they had every run game play known to man. The quarterback ran four of five different trap plays. These guys are running downhill zones, and the kid's really good at it. He's very quick, their offensive line blocks hard for him. They have a senior quarterback who's a thrower as opposed to what Buffalo did. The thing that most impressed me with Akron was that they had such little success for two years in a row and for Coach Bowden, in his first year, to have them competing for four quarters and playing as hard as they are, I think it says a ton about his leadership."
On the difficulties, defensively, playing a running team, then a passing team
"We've talked about that before. I think that's the biggest challenge for defenses in college football right now, the variety of offenses they have to defend from a week-to-week. I think that's why it's really important to have a system that's flexible and that you believe in. I tell our guys all the time that they've got to know our rules and they've got to be able to use the rules of our scheme. As a coordinator, Coach [Jay] Niemann has to be able to apply those rules when they start to break down. If they're taking advantage of certain things, we've got to have quick answers. Hopefully we can do that."
On what defensive and offensive pass efficiency performance says about a team
"A lot of that too is we don't throw interceptions, knock on wood, and we've been getting interceptions. That's a big part of pass efficiency defense. The sacks play into that. I just think for the last two years that we've done a good job of protecting our quarterback, and we do a good job of pressuring the quarterback. We don't necessarily always get the sack, but forcing early throws, incompletions, long foul balls, and things like that because of the pressure and hits we get. That adds up to what you're talking about. I do think, and Akron is similar to this, we both believe in press coverage. That does take timing off of some throws, which helps in those categories."
On playing on the road
"We've been pretty good on the road of late. When I first got here, it wasn't that way at the beginning of the season, but once we got into that stretch, our guys have learned how to adapt and really enjoy the experience together. It's not a vacation obviously, but it's a chance to go do something together different. When we practice, we'll be at the opposite end of the field. That's what we do when we got on road trips. We'll do everything at the other end and snap them into the fact that it's different than playing at home. I think it takes a lot of focus and discipline to play like you do at home on the road. That's something we have done by winning, but we haven't played a four-quarter game the way we have here now."
On if there's a bit more of a swagger in the team given the six game winning streak
"I think every team is different. This team wasn't last year's team. They had to earn their own swagger, just like last year's team got as the year went on. I think we are playing with confidence right now. Really all three phases, even our special teams, right now are competing hard. We haven't done anything with our punt return unit yet from a return standpoint, but we're fielding the ball and making good choices. Our punter had a great game last week. Our coverage has been outstanding. The fake punts have helped. Simsy's [Mathew Sims] been very consistent. I like what's going on. I think when you win six in a row, the guys believe. We've got to continue to get better because in college football, you can never rest. You know the next team is coming even harder than the last team."
On if there are any trends between last year's winning streak and this year's
"Not really. They're similar because we're winning. I think last year's team was different. Last year's team was a bunch of seniors that had lost a championship game, and they really wanted to get back there because of that loss. It kind of fueled them. I think this year's senior class and junior class has taken more of a one week at a time approach to just being better each week. They were both equally fun to coach. Last year, from the second I got on campus, all they talked about was, `We're going back to Detroit.' Not that this team doesn't, but I think that they've just taken the approach that they've got to get better each week and we'll end up there if we do the right things along the way."
On how much it would mean to finish the year a Top 25 team
"I think it shows respect across the country if you're getting votes like that. It means that people that could normally could slot a lower Big Ten or ACC or SEC team chose you over them. That's respect. That would mean a lot for our program to have that kind of respect. I think two years in a row, we've been 26th or 27th after 11 wins, so it probably takes 12 to have that kind of respect nationally. I don't know. We'll worry about it if we can get to that point. I'd really like to be in Detroit having that conversation. We've got to win out to get there.
"I think it'd be the stepping stone maybe to a lot of summer talk about where we could go as a team. There'd be some hype and we'd have to back it up. I know the first year Boise did it, it was like `Can you do it again?' They had to do it again, but you've got to take the first step to get that respect.
On any concerns this week could be a trap game
"Not really. I've got to coach my guys the same way we did last week. I'm more hard on our coaching staff probably than I will be our guys. We've got to prepare our guys exactly like we did last week. We respected Buffalo. We prepared hard. We practiced hard and we played well. We've got to do the same thing. It won't be easy I know. Anytime you play a team on the road that's moving the ball as well as they are, it's going to be a challenge.
"Last week's team had one win as well. It's more about just doing what we do. From the outside looking in anytime you are playing one win team you would say that they potentially adds that flavor to it. But again the last two one-win teams we have played have played four-quarter games with a lot of really good teams. I think it is easy to stand in front of our guys and say hey Tennessee is from the SEC and was 30-26 in the fourth quarter. Ohio won the East and won by six last week against this same football team. Their quarterback, No. 7, he jumps off the tape. It's not going to be like these guys aren't making plays. I don't think our guys will do that.
On the importance of starting fast
"I think when you start fast it is huge. They're going to go to the locker room and try to mount an upswing and when you come out and answer with a three and out and a touchdown in the first play it's kind of like, `See you.' That was our goal to play fast and to start fast and finish and we did. Everything we tried to do other than having the penalties we did on defense. That was the biggest negative of the game was our defensive penalties."
Start of Saturday setting the tone
"Any time you can start with a touchdown and hold the other team to a field goal or less you feel good about what happened in the first two series."
On Marlon Moore's first start
"I know he is here to compete. Marlon has been a true competitor since he got here. He is the first true freshman we said we were going to play. Coach McNutt has been bringing him along. He played the dime package they week before. Not a lot of people said anything about it but he played a lot the week before. When the opportunity came to put him in when Sticks [Rashaan Melvin] was not playing he showed that he can compete and broke up some passes and made some tackles. It's been a work in progress just to make sure he understood the ins and outs of the game and got use to the speed of the game and know he is extremely confident and obviously he is playing well."
On the performance of Jordan Lynch
"You can't say enough. I think he is the ultimate competitor, super tough. I wish he would dive and not get hit so much. He takes a beating because of his extra effort. There is nothing I can say, but I wish I could clone him. He is a great player he is a great person and he's from a good family that works hard. He is from a great high school. He is going to break some records if he keeps doing what he is doing.
"Our offensive coaches have done a great job. I don't think those guys get enough credit. We have had some things happen here. Coach Canada leaves. We had the debacle with the one guy that took the job for a day and Coach Dunbar gets ill and Coach Carry steps in with five new starting offensive lineman. We're still doing what we are doing. Our staff deserves some credit. They have done a tremendous job with holding it together leading our guys and not putting our guys in a tough position. I am really impressed with the leadership of our offensive coaches."
On the upcoming high school playoffs
"We pay close attention every week. Playoff time, obviously the winning teams, but you know every week we have conversations in our recruiting meetings about the teams and the coaches."
On Demetrius Stone's transition to safety
"Stone had two great tackles that stood out to me in the game. They ran a stretch play inside the formation and made two solo tackles that were nice plays. It was seamless transition for him and happy with what he does from a call standpoint back there. He does a nice job directing traffic."
On playing a lot of the reserve players in the fourth quarter against Buffalo
"I think on homecoming, to play everyone on our roster that was eligible to play and not redshirted, that was something I was making sure everybody we could get in got into the game. I think that's great for the families and the kids. For Matt [McIntosh] to get meaningful snaps that he got and he made some mistakes and some plays to. It was great running film for Matt. The best way to learn is to be on tape so you can watch yourself do it.
"There are a lot of guys who got in. Juwan Brescican had his first two catches of his career, which were big, to see him catch and run with the ball afterwards. Desroy Maxwell had a lot of reputations at tight end and Keith Harris Jr. got a lot of runs. There are a lot of good things that happened. George Rainey had a sack, which for him is awesome with a sack at the end of the game. Brock Lemon stripped the ball at the goal line in the last play of the game red shirt freshman. I was happy. Not only did guys get in but the contributed and that is fun to see."
Anthony Wells, Defensive Tackle
On if the defense can still improve
"You can always play better. We had a couple mistakes, a couple mental errors. We just have to clean those up. It all starts in practice today. We'll try and fix the mistakes and move on from there."
On the difficulties, defensively, playing a running team, then a passing team
"It tough, but our coaches do a great job of putting together a game plan. We just follow what they say. Just trust in the scheme, everybody's all in one the scheme and you'll have a good outcome."
On if the preparation is different, playing a running team, then a passing team
"The gap fits, the stunts we run, the plays we call, almost everything, especially depending on the type of quarterback we're playing. Whether it's a passing quarterback or a running quarterback, we have to be gap sound."
Andrew Ness, Center
On moving to the top of the rushing stats in the MAC
"It means a lot to us because Northern has always been known as a running school. We like to run the ball and as an offensive line running the ball means you are domination people and that is what we like to do.
"We take just as much pride in running the ball. We like getting the ball in multiple people's hands and just getting it in all the playmakers."
On converting on third and fourth down
"You can definitely tell it deflates the defense because you converted a critical third or fourth down and you just see them start hanging and they get tired put their hands on their hips and it's a great thing to see."
On the progression of the offensive line
"We have progressed a lot and we have come together as a line and just matured a great amount. We have gained a lot of crucial experience and we have multiple guys we can plug in at any time. We have matured and played a lot better as a group."