Oct. 23, 2012
|HUSKIE ALL-ACCESS HIGHLIGHTS
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 this weekend's game at Western Michigan. Joining Doeren were offensive linemen Ryan Brown, defensive end Jason Meehan and Michael Santacaterina. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"Obviously we are excited to have won our game last week. I'm happy with not only the play of our guys, but the way that you go on the road and play a team that, statistically, I know the wins and losses weren't there for Akron, but you could see the improvement they had as a football team. Particularly in their passing offense, which was ninth in the country going into the game. We were able to take, who we consider is one of the best tailbacks, out of the game in Chisholm with our defense and our special teams, then to be able to defend the pass the way that we did and to hold their offense to the numbers that we did, and play a very good game defensively throughout I thought, allowed our offense an opportunity when things weren't clicking the way it had been to kind of get back on where they wanted to be in the second half and finish the game.
"Akron did a nice job defensively changing up some things they had done previously. You could tell that they really self scouted themselves and did a nice job. They were a big man-to-man team coming into the game and played us in a lot more zone. Once we adjusted what we were doing, I felt like we had success. Our tailbacks were able to run for an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Jordan [Lynch] obviously had some nice plays in the running game. Even though he played well, I know he'll tell you that he left a lot of plays on the field. I know he's excited to get back out there and play a better game than he did last week.
"I'm happy with our special teams play in that game. I thought we kicked the ball well. Tyler Wedel placed the ball really well on our kickoffs, which allowed our coverage units to get down the field and pin them. Creating the takeaway on our kickoff coverage with a big hit by Georgio [Bowers] was a really big momentum play.
"The way that our defense has continued to play in the red zone I think now statistically we're fifth in the nation. I'm really proud of that. Obviously, we need to continue to play that way. Our pass rush continues to be effective throughout the game.
"I'm looking forward to this game, our last road game here. Our third road game in four weeks, so that stretch has been challenging. I think you've got to play well in October to be real in November. This is a game that we know we play a good team, a team that owns the win/losses over time against each other. Western Michigan gave us a great game in the first half last year. Obviously we got hot in the second half. It was a really windy day, which affected their throwing ability, and they're a very good passing offense. Coach Cubit does a phenomenal job with that.
"Over time, this has been a game that Western has gotten the better of NIU. We know that they own the series 23-14. They're a very good home team. They're 3-1 at home this year, and they've beaten NIU 13 of the last 19 times up there.
"We know that we've got a tough road game ahead of us. We also know that if we can grind our way through this and find a way to get a victory that we do come home for two weeks in a row and get a very welcomed 10 day preparation for a game, which we're in dire need for. I know everybody at this point in the year that hasn't had a bye feels like they need one. I know Western's a beat up team. Our guys are playing through some bumps and bruises. I think everyone's depth is tested at this time in the year on the football team. It's not just their injuries, but the mental part of the grind that takes place. I know that we're excited to play another team as good as Western."
On the challenge Western Michigan's run defense presents
"It'll be a challenge. We think their defensive line is the strength of their defense. I think who they have up front in Freddie Bishop, No. 97, Travonte Boles, 55, and [Deauntay] Legrier 36, their three down lineman, are very good football players. All of them are four to seven to eight tackles for losses on the season. They're second in the league in sacks, so that tells you that they're an aggressive front.
"To answer your question, it is challenging. I think it's challenging every game. People load the box on us. That's what they do. We know it'll be physical. Last year they were a 4-3 front, and now they've changed to a three down defense. They're blitzing and packing the box. There are line stunts. It'll be a similar defensive front to what Buffalo was. Buffalo, I thought, had a really good front. Our guys will know after our team meeting today what their challenges are up front. To flip it around, they have five senior offensive linemen. There's not many teams that can say they have that. That's the strength, to me, of their offense. Their quarterback situation has hindered them, even though Tyler [Van Tubbergen] is making a lot of plays. When you have five senior offensive lineman, you've got a chance. They've given them a chance in a lot of games to win."
On why the defense is so successful in the red zone
"I think there are a couple of things. I think our kids understand that area of the field and how the plays change. We do a nice job, I think, of coaching that to our guys. We practice it everyday. That's something that some schools don't. The last three place of every practice are in the red zone. It's something we believe in as a toughness part of how to finish. We put our defense in the toughest position they can be in. Flipping that around on our offense, they have to score to finish with a perfect run or a perfect pass. We also practice against each other a lot during spring and fall camp. During Wednesday's practice, we always have a red zone skelly against each other. There is a huge emphasis. Even in the offseason, the mental toughness stuff that we do with our guys carries forward in the red zone."
On if the Huskies plan for a "bend but don't break" defensive mentality
"No. We don't want them to get down there. We tell the guys, if they got there, it's probably because something bad happened. When people put you against the wall, as a competitor, how are you going to react? Are you going to bow up or are you going to turn it down? I think our guys take a lot of pride in bowing up. I think that's something that as a competitive coaching staff we like to challenge our guys with. When you practice that last in practice when you're most tired, I think it puts you in the right frame of mind."
On how much NIU's pass rush plays a role in the red zone success
"I don't know if that really does. I always challenge our defensive linemen. There's certain areas of the game where a sack is so critical. The red zone, where you can knock a guy out of field goal range, is obviously a big sack. In the two minute, when they're out of timeouts and you can basically end the game with a sack. Those are situations we talk about a lot with our football team.
"To flip it around, we talk about it with our offensive football team. You can't take sacks when you're in the red zone. You can't turn the ball over when you're in the red zone. You can't take sacks during the two minute. We call it football aptitude. Those are things that we really try to educate our players on, so that they're ready to play in those situations."
On giving up only 10 points the last two weeks defensively
"I just think the execution has increased. Our tackling has been a little bit better. I know that we've really tried to restrict running lanes. We call it change the math, but getting off the blocks to eliminate who they think the unblocked player is going to be by adding players into that count from a defensive standpoint. Part of it is special teams play. I think we've done a nice job creating some longer fields for the opponent, and our offense does a nice job protecting the ball. We're not putting our defense in those positions."
On what the main parts are that constitutes football aptitude
"It's really just football common sense. I think you can equate it to commons sense in life. Everyone knows people that have great common sense and some people that have none. It's the same thing with football players. Some players just have a great gift of understanding the game and others you have to really teach it to them. We assume all of them know nothing and try to teach every part of it that we can. We put them in situations, talk about it, and go through every single four-minute offense, two-minute offense, how to use a timeout, all the different game management things. The things that I try to control on gameday, but sometimes it's out of my control. It has to happen from a player on the field. So you try to train them the best you can."
On the main tenants of football aptitude
"There are so many of them. There really are. You talk about a muffed punt, a blocked kick that crosses the line of scrimmage compared to a blocked kick that doesn't. There are thousands of them that go through a game."
On how quickly players develop football intelligence
"There are some players that are extremely intelligent, and like I said, some of them didn't grow up with the game. Maybe they started playing it their junior year in high school and it's difficult for them. You assume they know nothing. It doesn't hurt to cover your bases with everybody."
On how much football aptitude plays into football talent
"The mental part of the game is way more than people understand. A lot of teams beat themselves more than they do anything. That's one thing that we really talk about is, don't let NIU beat NIU. It's not always the best players talent-wise that win a football game. It's the best teams and the most disciplined teams and the best-executed plans that win games. We do have good talent. I'm not trying to take away from that, but we also execute what we put in extremely well most of the time. That puts us in a position to win games."
On if a Western Michigan win would make the Broncos season
"They have four games left including ours and every one of them is critical if they want to get in a bowl game. They're in a position that a lot of teams are right now: fighting for postseason play. They're still fighting for it. Their season hasn't been ruled as a season where they can't reach a bowl game yet. I know how competitive their coaches are. I've gotten to know some of them. They're really good guys. I know that they'll have their guys ready to play a hard fought game with us."
On where Jordan Lynch can still improve
"The way our offense is built, there are a lot of plays that have pass plays built into runs. Are they covered down or not covered down. We have guys is and out of the box where we shift our motion guys or line up in certain formations where we will tell them hey if they don't leverage this formation the right way let's throw the ball out there. Certain times he just says I'm running. That's great, sometimes it's good but usually when you do that if you are wrong on that decision you are running into an unblocked defender as opposed to if we put two guys out there and they put one, we should be able to throw it and block the run as opposed to running into a guy that nobody can block. The deep balls, you've seen in some games where he has put the ball where Martell [Moore] can go up make plays and he did that for Juwan [Brescacin] but there were a couple throws to Martel that went out of boundsthat ended up out of bounds and I know he wishes he could have back because you know Martell if you put it up there a lot of times he will go make the play for you and he just wasn't able to get him the ball there on some of the deep passes."
On what it would mean to the MAC to get two or three teams ranked
"I think it means a lot, its respect. I think both of those teams, including ourselves, are deserving. You know, what Ohio is being able to do being undefeated and winning at Penn State and what Toledo did against Cincinnati was a great win for their program and what we have been able to do. I think all three teams deserve respect and whether we get it or not. I think if we keep winning we will be in those conversations and that's a great thing for the MAC."
On how much the offense feeds off of Jordan Lynch
"I think any good team feeds off of their quarterback. The way he carries himself practices plays competes and he brings energy even to our defense. Our defense loves seeing him run or make a big throw. I know we play off each other on both sides of the football a lot."
On any concern about Jordan Lynch taking too many hits
"I think any times your quarterback has 20 carries you are worried about it. I think if we could lower that number some we would. Again a lot of the hits aren't designed. He drops back and pass and then he scrambles for a 30-yard touchdown. I mean you can't say don't drop and pass. A lot of the runs we're handing off or throwing or running based on looks so out of those 20 times he kept the ball maybe 10 of them we thought he would get it.
"It is just based on how people defend us and I think when you have three tailbacks that average six yards per carry in a game and your passing game is over 200 yards and Jordan's over 100, you cant argue with the balance that we have right there and that's all we want to be is a balanced productive offense that doesn't turn it over. That is what we are going to continue to try and do."
On if the quarterback is more at risk when running or standing in the pocket
"In a way I think he is less at risk when he is that attacker as opposed to blindside hits. The runs you worry about on any quarterback are the ones that he doesn't see, you know when they are coming from the side or things like that. I think when the kid is running the ball and he is expecting the contact he is probably in a safer place then when he is standing their lose reading and all of a sudden he is drilled without seeing it. I don't know it would probably be a good question for him."
On the production from the running backs Saturday
"I thought they did a good job. They averaged 6.1 yards per carry. They read the zone play the right way. We had a lot of yards after contact. As a group, they were over 150 yards. It's not one guy, but still it's three guys getting 150 averaging over six yards a carry. I think that is pretty productive and they are catching the ball well. I think there were some protection things they could have done better. They have been really really good in protection for our quarterbacks and that can improve this week."
On continuing the rotation at the running back
"I think so. I think there are certain things they all being to the table and because we use them as blockers they are getting hit a lot even though they are not running the a lot. So it is a way of keeping fresh. I think when more guys are playing you get better practices. There are more guys that practice hard and they know they are going to play. So we continue to get that and Keith Harris and Leighton [Settle], Akeem [Daniels] and Georigo [Bowers] all four of those guys played well in the game."
Importance of backs taking pressure of Jordan Lynch
"I think it is important. It keeps Jordan fresh. It keeps defenses, obviously they have to defend more than one guy in the game and different running styles and different play selections. Then pass game that comes off when those guys are in the game. Even our tight ends, I thought got involved more in the passing game this past week which is big because when they are in there blocking and blocking, people they have a tendency to not look at them as much. We saw what happened with [Jason] Schepler, how open he was. I think that is a good way to create some balance in those formations as well."
On if the team celebrated the fact the seniors are the winningest class at NIU
"We talked on the bus and congratulated them. I didn't know right after the game, although we talked about it a lot during the week last week. That was one of our challenges to the team. After the game it kind of slipped my mind and then once Donna told me I got on the bus and started congratulated all the guys. About five minutes into the celebration Jimmy Ward said, `Don't enjoy it very long because we are going to break the record next year,' which I appreciated. I think any time you are winning you have the competition amongst the classes and I know this class I want to build that number now to make it even tougher to get."
Jason Meehan, Defensive end
On what the coaches teach about the finer points of the game
"A lot of those are on special teams. We do a lot of things like that because sometimes people make mistakes on special teams and ends up costing them a lot. You know like not bringing the ball out of the end zone if you get an interception there or not returning the kick."
On the pride the defense takes in its red zone defense
"Especially for the defensive line it's a big point of pride and emphasis for us. Our coach like to use a phrase is run the ball at me and its pretty much saying if you are in a goal line you want them to run the ball at you. You want to be that guy to make the play for the defense so when we get into the goal line situation its really important and we are all really pumped up for it because it is what you play the game for. So we defensively try to bend and not break when it gets down there. Not on my watch."
On the defense being fierce in the red zone
"That is exactly what it is. When you get to the goal line its not like oh I'm tired you know they got all the way hear. It's really about alight it is time. Our backs are against the wall and what are we going to do and its uplifting because you know everyone has the same mindset that you have. Its time to make a play and we have to do this. There is a lot of confidence when it goes there a lot of swagger on our defense for those kinds of plays."
Michael Santacaterina, Linebacker
On the defenses success on the red zone
"I don't think there is any particular reason. I think we are a tough bunch of kids on defense. I think we start to bow up when we get down there. The next thing is to not let them down there. That is even a better red zone defense. That's our next goal, to not let them in the red zone to begin with."
On if the defense talks about being good in the red zone
"That is a big point of emphasis for us. Any time a team is the red zone their goal is to go 100 for 100 and ours is to at least hold them to a field goal and a turnover is even bigger. But any time they are in the red zone we are going to blow up and give it everything we got to hold them."
Ryan Brown, Offensive line
On Western Michigan's defensive line
"They are a really good defensive line. They play that 30-30 stack and they for a lot of big guys on the line and they rotate some guys in, they got good motors and play real hard."
On what makes the 30-30 stack tough
"It is just something I don't see every day. When I practice against our defense they just run a base 4-3 and you know you just have to change up your rolls every week and it is just a little different. But you know we have seen a lot of that they year with Tennessee and Army and Buffalo of course."
On if there is a concern seeing Jordan Lynch running
"Sometimes but it is kind of natural for us. Since day one I've came here we have kind of been a quarterback running team but we have really taken pride in taking the running backs running more and more. Take those hits off Jordan but it's something we are use to Jordan running the ball."