Oct. 30, 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 UMass. Joining Doeren were defensive ends Sean Progar
and Joe Windsor
and tight end Jason Schepler
. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"I'm obviously excited to end the string of road games that we've had and to come home. We had three road wins in the last four weeks, and I'm really proud of our players and coaches for keeping everything together. I'm excited to be back in Huskie Stadium this week for our game with UMass.
"First of all, I thought Western Michigan's staff and players did a really nice job preparing. They threw a lot of new things at us that they hadn't done from our defensive standpoint, their offense with the expanded formations with the linemen out on one side of the field and all the stuff that went with that. They had a couple of extra linemen formations, which present some gap issues. I thought our coaches did a very good job of correcting things once we saw it enough to draw up all of the different places they were putting people. We responded with 31 unanswered points there coming out from Sims' big field goal until the fourth quarter.
"I'm really happy about the way we were able to hang in there. I thought the offense protected the football extremely well again. To be on the road three times in a month and not turn it over once in those games offensively, I think says a lot about what's going on over there.
"Jordan Lynch, who I'm going to talk a lot about today, continues to do everything we ask him to do and more. His desire to get into the end zone when he runs, the way he finishes runs, the way he's throwing the football right now. He's No. 1 in the country in total offense, No. 2 in the country in rushing yards. He broke the NCAA record for most 100-yard games by a quarterback with seven this week. He continues week in and week out to lead us, not only from a yardage standpoint, but the way that he plays the game of football I think deserves notoriety. Whether he gets into the conversations at the end of the year or not, I think he's worthy of those conversations for awards. I don't know how you have six touchdowns, and you're not the MAC player of the week. I don't get that one. I'm happy that he continues to help us and do the things that he's been waiting to do. I mean you talk about a guy that's waited his turn and was unselfish through the process behind Chandler. It's really fun to be around him right now. I know he still has some things that he'd like to do better.
"I think offensively, we took some shots on them [Western Michigan] throwing the football. Some of them resulted in big plays and some of them in incompletions that took us off the field. Even though we were better on third down than we have been in the past couple weeks, we did meet our goals statistically in that area, I think there were some areas that he could've continued to move the change.
"Our offensive line did a nice job. That was a team that had 21 sacks coming into our game, and we held them to zero sacks and only one tackle for a loss, which I think says a lot about our offensive line and what they did in that football game.
"Defensively, for Sean Progar to have three sack in a game. Alan Baxter was a step away multiple times. George Rainey came in and gave us some nice plays. I thought Ken Bishop and Nabal Jefferson played really hard up front. In the secondary, Jimmie Ward continues to play at a high level. I look forward to getting some other players back when we can off of the injured reserve.
"Special teams was the reason that I think we won that football game. I think the way that we were able to return the ball. Tommylee [Lewis] had a great game. We made fun of him a couple times because the kicker got him, but we flipped field position multiple times in that football game with punt returns and kickoff returns. We continue to do a nice job with our coverage units. 63 times we've kicked off this year. That's a lot. You kick the ball off 63 times. All those guys that have to sprint down the field seven to eight times a game to cover kicks. This week, UMass is actually No. 1 in our league in kickoff coverage, and we're No. 3. So, you've got two of the better teams coverage teams in the country playing each other. That's something that helps us. When our defense can play on a long field and our offense gets to play on a short field, those are great things as far as scoring and keeping points off the board.
"Matt Sims, who really hasn't had the season up until this game that he had a year ago. He's just, kind of like a lot of kickers and golfers, there are times where you're just trying to work the little wrinkles out of your swing and your leg swing. He did that this week. He had a great week in practice. He was killing the ball in pregame when we had the wind. That 54-yarder and the 49-yarder were great kicks for us, and they were important kicks in that game.
"This week we come home and play a UMass team that's making the jump obviously to an 85 scholarship team. I've coached at that level with two different places that they were at. I know a lot about UMass' program from when I was at Montana. They've had a tradition of being a very good team. Blue collar, tough guys. They get really good players there. They're long. They can run. They're really young. You can see that Coach Molnar's playing some really young kids but they are athletic and they're long. They played Vanderbilt, at Vandy, last week and it was 7-0 with a couple minutes left in the first half. They're playing hard.
"Phil Elmassian is their defensive coordinator and Phil's been in Rose Bowls and big time games as a Division I coach at a lot of big programs. You can see that they're well coached in the secondary. We know that we're playing a well-coached team. They have a receiver that transferred from Notre Dame that's playing well for them. They have a running back that's a transfer from Michigan that's playing well for them. I know the record doesn't show it, but like every week, we're going to compete like we have to every week and try to come out of it with another win. The bottom line is we want to control our own destiny as we continue. That's the biggest thing we need to do at the end of this week."
On if Tommylee Lewis will be back deep on punt returns this week
"Yeah, the two returner, with the wind being the way it is this time of year, it's something we did last year as well. We'll have two guys back when we feel like the wind is a factor. If it isn't, we won't. In that game, because their punter had just punted all over the place, we had no idea where the ball was going to end up, and the week before, they just started rugbying. We just felt like we needed to make sure the ball never hit the ground. The punter this week is a little different than it was last week, so we'll have the ability to go with a single or a double returner.
On what else Jordan Lynch has to do to be on the Heisman list
"I think to be the Heisman winner, you have to do everything. You've got to be almost perfect. All he needs to do is continue to do what he's doing, win games, be productive, and not make mistakes. That's what he's doing. He's not hurting our defense. He's doing everything we're asking him. He's getting better as the year goes on. I mean the things that he struggled with early, he's getting better at. He's making better choices. Instead of throwing into tight coverage, he scrambles for a first down. He'll throw it away in the red zone, or he'll scramble and run a guy over on the goal line.
"He's playing smart. To win that award, you've got to play that way. I think he'd deserving of the conversations, and he's got three more weeks of the regular season. I think he's obviously kind of on the fringe. If he can do what he needs to do this week, the next week, and the week after, can get there? He deserves to be if he does what he has to do. I always feel that the guys that are in that play their best football in November. You can lose that award pretty easy in the last month. I think that's something he's got to continue to do what he's doing, not any more, not any less."
On if many people around the country still don't know that much about Jordan Lynch
"Yeah, I think because he didn't have anything last year. Deservedly, there wasn't a lot of attention on him because he hadn't earned it yet, but when you do what he's done. You have to have a body of work, and now he does. If he can keep doing it, and we can keep winning while he's doing it, then he'll be a guy that's in those conversations and he deserves to be. The people that compete against him, they know where I'm coming from. A lot of running quarterbacks don't throw the ball well, so people put everybody in there, and they stop him. Last week, he threw for four touchdowns. He threw for a bunch against Army, who put everybody in there. Teams that want to play back in coverage, then he can run or handoff to sweeps or inside runs to tailbacks. It's a formidable plan when he's playing the way he is."
On upcoming televised games will help Jordan Lynch's award prospects
"I hope so. I think playing on a big stage and playing well is a big deal to the media and it should be. For our players, that's what they want. They all want to be on that stage, so I know he'll be excited about it. The biggest stage he's been on, nationally, is probably the Iowa game. He ran the ball well against Iowa. I know that he can throw the ball better. That was his first start, and from that point on, he has. I know he'll look forward to playing again."
On Jordan's ability to put up big numbers, despite being the focal point of opposing defenses
"I think a lot of that too, should go to Coach Carey and the offensive staff. They do a good job of scheming people to get a hat on a hat in a lot of our schemes. Whether it's by using the jet sweep, where you have Tommylee [Lewis], Perez [Ashford], or Martel [Moore] on a jet, you've got to honor those guys because we do give it to them. We're pulling players out with that. With the power scheme and the zone scheme, we can get a hat on a hat a lot of times, and then it's up to Jordan to make the one guy miss or run him over. He's been good at that a lot of times. I think you look at Kansas State's offense and they don't go fast like us, but they do the same thing. They try to play the numbers game for their quarterback. It's hey, how can we get him throws that are easy for him. If they're going to take those away, then we know we can run him, and that's something that we've been able to do."
On his level of confidence in the other offensive weapons
"I think if you look at Martel [Moore] and Tommylee [Lewis] last week, you'd say yes. We didn't have Leighton [Settle] last week, he was out, but Leighton's had some 100 yard games for us too when the quarterback run game wasn't quite as good. The tight ends have been making catches for us. [Jason] Schepler's gotten in the deal here a little bit and [Luke] Eakes continues to make catches. [Angelo] Sebastiano's had a couple. [Juwan] Brescacin had a couple here. We're still spreading the ball around. I think we're very balanced statistically if you look at what we're doing."
On if you need preseason hype to make it to the Heisman finals out of the MAC
"I don't know. I think that award, some years, it's pretty locked in where it's going. Other years, there are defensive guys on the list, which is rare. Last year, I think everyone knew that Andrew Luck and RGIII were going to be there, and who was going to be with them. This year, it's not that way. There are more guys involved in the conversation. Like I said, the last month for about 10 guys is going to be really important, if they want to be in New York. We'll see where it goes for us."
On the improving reputation of the MAC this year
"I think you have to say that. I was talking to Coach [Bill] Cubit before the game last week and he has been in the league as long as anybody and he said he can't remember a time when six teams were bowl eligible this early in the year in our league. I haven't been in the league so I couldn't really tell you. I do feel like our league is very strong and balanced. Just watching our league on tape every week there are some really good teams. I mean I'm watching a lot of the East teams just as cross over games and studying the way that Bowling Green is playing defense right now, they are really playing. Their defensive front is something. You see Kent State with Dri Archer and what that guy is doing. There is some good football being played in our league right now."
On getting ahead early against UMass and takig control of the game
"I mean that is the goal every week. I just doesn't always work out that way. I mean every week we would like to be up 50 at halftime, that just doesn't happen. You go out there with the game plan you think is going to work. If you ask Coach Cole he would say every play is a touchdown. We got to execute and we got to keep the off the board. We got a lot of guys who are banged up so we got to play through that and so do they. Obviously, I would love to be in a situation where we were in with Akron where in the fourth quarter we had our back ups in. I don't know if that is real or not. These guys played a four-quarter game with Ohio. They played two really good quarters against Vandy, at Vandy. I know we are going to get a good team that is well coached.
On being good both offensively and defensively
"It is rare. I've been on a couple teams like that were like that and I've been on a couple that weren't. I think all the teams that have a good defense usually have a pretty good record. We keep scoring a lot of points and lose a lot of games still. So that is a thing we got to continue to be a balanced football team. I think the area you are not talking about is special teams, and I think that is the area that is the most improved in this year as a team even though we don't have the touchdown returns we had in one game last year.
"Last year our kick off coverage was bad. There were four or five games where we were starting at the 50 and as a defense that is tough. In the Kansas and Toledo game last year we really didn't stop anybody on special teams. So that is the one area I think has additionally helped both sides of the football. To be quite honest our offense this year has just been better fourth quarter offense than it was a year ago. Last year we would score 28 points in like seven minutes and then we wouldn't do anything for two quarters and then we would score a bunch again. This year, in every game but two we have scored on the opening drive. Last year we didn't score on the opening drive but one time. We are just consistent production out of both sides has been good."
On comparing this year's team to last year's team
"I think it is a better three-phase football team. I really do. We got to stay healthy here as we finish the season. Obviously we got to win some more games to get to where we went last year. But when you look at the three phases of the our team, statistically on paper, it is a better football team."
On which players will be returning to the field from injury
"We'll see. We're going to practice here in a couple of hours. Leighton [Settle] warmed up Saturday and we probably could have played him but we just felt like it was best for the rest of the season not to have him in there. I don't know if he will go today. The trainer said he could have gone last week, so I'm assuming he will be good. Dechane [Durante], I know he is going to try and practice today and Perez Ashford is going to start his work back on the field today as well. I know Melvin won't practice today but they are expecting him back by Saturday."
On if the weather conditions will be a factor Saturday
"I don't know what Saturday is going to bring, but whatever it is we will have seen it. We see it all here and sometimes we see it all in one day. So today it will be blowing 30 miles per hour and Saturday might be snowing or it might be 50 and sunny. Who knows, but we will be ready. I think it's hard. UMass, I feel for them because they are out there and the hurricane hitting them right now and I know they had to cancel school and trying to figure out where to practice. They are dealing with weather themselves."
On the challenges for the defense due to the fast pace of the offense
"We were talking about that yesterday. It's funny, because my defensive background, particularly at Wisconsin, one of their favorite stats was time of possession. We're the opposite. We are the worse time of possession team in the world. I was talking to the offense yesterday about different ways to change our tempo and this and that then the defensive coaches said no, no, no you keep scoring points.
"I get concerned when we average 80 some snaps a game on defense but at the same time I think there are certain points in the game, and I do do this where we'll talk, `Hey our defense is tired, let's work some clock here and they will. But when we're three and out, four and out, five and out on a defensive series, and we're fine. Those guys rotate a lot and its probably this game more than any just because the longevity without the break. Defensive line, we're very healthy and linebackers, it's more just getting some defensive backs back."
On creating turnovers
"I mean early in the year we dropped like seven interceptions. They were bouncing off out facemasks our hands. Then we had two or three fumbles where we knocked the ball out and it would go right out of bounds or bounce right back into the guys hands that dropped it. Those things happen. You turn on Toledo, we were watching them flipping it around and they've had four or five balls thrown right to them like they were invisible and that just happens for you sometimes. Sometimes the ball goes right to you and sometimes it doesn't. You just got to keep playing and play hard and get around the ball and pretty soon you get something in your lap. Special teams has helped, we've forced a couple there."
On the focus of the team staying one week at a time
"I think we have a great leadership team. Our leadership council does a really nice job staying involved with our guys and our senior class has been in full bowls. They not only understand what you have to do to get to a bowl game, you can't look ahead. There are enough examples out there in America right now where teams are getting beat by teams they shouldn't. You can use those games as examples for your guys."
On if the success of NIU football has helped with recruiting
"It's funny, because now, even more in the last three weeks guys have been calling us, some of the teams they thought they were going to go to are losing and they wanted to open things back up. There are a lot of doors that are open right now for us in recruiting. Our record in the state of Illinois for the last five years in particular, we're the winningest program in the state. We have been in more bowl games, have won more bowl games and all those things. Kids want to win. They want to be in postseason play. They don't want to go somewhere and work 20 hours a week and get nothing to gain out of it other than being at some place. I think winning is a huge part of it. Also the academic success we have had on top on the winning is big. The facility improvements that you are obviously seeing now take shape are big. The games we are getting non-conference wise has helped. Announcing the Arkansas game that's to come and playing at Iowa here next year. Playing at Soldier Field the last couple years, all those things help us in Chicago with recruiting big time."
On if he thinks about the loss to Iowa preventing NIU from having an historic season
"Not really. I mean it is more ammunition for the future, as opposed to would of, could of should of. Iowa is a good football team. When you lose the game you lose the game you know it is over. You can't go back in time. I just use it as motivation to not let it happen again."
Sean Progar, Defensive End
On how the defense stays fresh due to the pace of the offense
"It is something we practice. It's something we have done now for two years since Coach Doeren has been here. We are used to it. We have been doing in since camp. It is something that helps our offense out, tiring our defenses. We always have to stay ready like you said, but we rotate a lot of players so it kind of works out for us on defense."
On being good both offensively and defensively
"I think the biggest thing is just our coaches. They get us prepared. The players are really putting in the time this year with the extra film and learning the game plan. I think we have really been accountable to each other and it has really worked out for us on defense this year. Knowing that our offense is going to put up points, we know we have to hold teams down. It's worked out this year and hope it keeps working out that way."
On what he tells players who is coming to NIU
"The biggest thing about us is we are a family. The way we treat each other the way we practice the way we prepare. Everyone is all in and we hold each other accountable but while we do that we treat each other right and I think that is the biggest thing the coaches that have come in here. The two different coaching staffs that I have both said that not every team has a family atmosphere like we do here and I think it has really helped us and the success that we have had."
Joe Windsor, Defensive End
On friendly competition on getting sacks
"Of course I want all of my teammates to do well and I want to push them harder and want to make the better players. If me getting more sacks makes them want to get more sacks, then I guess that is a good thing."
On playing on defense with the lead
"I think that is one big thing. Once we know our offense is going to put up the points and they are going to put them up quick so that means teams are going to have to start passing the ball. We think our pass defense is one of our strengths with or defensive line getting after the quarterback and our secondary covering. It works out with our offense putting points up quickly and teams are forced to put points up as fast as they can as well."
On Jordan Lynch
"I think it is an amazing thing seeing one of my teammates excel like Jordan has. I mean people thought that he would struggle coming into the season but if you remember last year after Chandler went down in the bowl game he came in and it was like clock work. I mean it didn't stop. Everybody expected him to do good things and seeing him live up to those expectations is pretty cool."
Jason Schepler, Tight End
On Jordan Lynch
"No. Since the five years I have been here, I've never seen a quarterback finish like he does. He almost does a better job than some running backs I see in college. You've always got to keep playing when every you see him with the ball because you never know when he is going to go down so you got to keep blocking."
On the progress of the offense
"I think our goal every week is to just get better from last week, take things off film. I know we did that this week. We took some things off the film that happened two weeks ago. I think every game we try to get better. So we can still get better every week."
On if he's surprised how well Jordan Lynch has played
I'm not really too surprised. I have known Jordan for a couple of years now and the way he goes about things and the type of worker he is so I knew that he works hard and he worked hard when he was the back up to Chandler. I'm not really surprised on how well he is doing because I kind of expected it from what he puts into it."