Nov. 4, 2010
DEKALB, Ill.- Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill spoke at NIU's weekly press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to review the Western Michigan game and preview the upcoming contest with Toledo. Wide receiver Willie Clark (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park), defensive end Jake Coffman (German Valley, Ill./Forreston), quarterback Chandler Harnish (Blufton, Ind./Norwell) and safety Demetrius Stone (Miami, Fla./Coffeyville) also met with the media. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
Jerry Kill, Head Coach
"The big thing was that [the Western Michigan game] was an excellent win on the road. I think probably the most important thing is how we did it, because Chandler Harnish had to take us down on that drive in the final five or six minutes of the game to win the game. As a team I think we needed to know that we could do that. It worked out great. It was good to get out of there with a win and get back home. Now we're preparing for Toledo for Tuesday night."
On preparing for short weeks and long weeks in November
On preparing for Toledo
"I don't think we try to prepare a whole lot differently. Today would be like a Monday so to speak. Today, as a coaching staff, it's a Monday and that's how we approach it. Tomorrow will be Tuesday, and that's how we do it and we try to stay in that routine with our kids. Saturday and Sunday, we'll go at two in the afternoon just like it's a weekday, and we'll treat Tuesday like it's a Saturday. We work in the summertime to prepare times. The only difficult challenge that we have is Monday because our kids normally don't have practice because of classes. We won't have any time with our kids Monday, which is a critical time in preparation, but it is what it is. We'll have to find a way to make up for it on Sunday and do the best we can on Monday, but there's not much we can do about it."
"We're early in the progression with what we're doing. We took Tuesday and Wednesday and we went only about an hour and 10 minutes and we corrected mistakes or things that we felt like we needed to get better at or things that we need to clean up. We didn't go add a bunch of stuff. Sometimes, you add a bunch of stuff because you have an extra couple of days. We feel like we need to work on our execution so we've spent the last two days in individual time and fundamentals. That's all we've done. Today, we're going to do more group, team preparation for Toledo, not as much individual stuff and try to shorten practice a little bit so we stay sharp and clean. We've talked more about what we didn't do very well at Western Michigan on Tuesday. Western Michigan did a fine job, but we didn't execute in some areas that we would have liked to, and we've addressed those. We've really concentrated more on getting better than anything else right now so I haven't seen much difference in the kids."
On what the team has focused on in practice this week
"We worked on our coverage teams and special teams, some things we things we needed to clean up, some fundamental things like pooch punting with the wind, things of that nature. We worked on protection schemes. We worked on kickoff coverage because Toledo is dynamic with kickoff returns and things of that nature. We tried to clean up our fundamentals in special teams. We did a couple things like punt block drills, things that you can't get to all the time. We felt that we should've had another punt block in the game at Western Michigan. Fundamentally, we just didn't get it done. Then we spent all of our time in individuals running crisp routes, using our hands on the offensive line, and defensive line working on pass rush techniques; fundamentals that a lot of the time at this year you get away from because you're working all team stuff and shortening practice. We tried to take the couple days we had to divide up fundamentals, groups, pads off, clean up, go play, instead of having such a long practice we stretched it out."
On the importance of how last week's game was won
"It goes back to I think we've been playing as a team offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. The offense did what they needed to do to put us in a position to win. The two-point conversion was big too. I think that takes the air out of you when somebody does that to you. Then them coming back and our defense with Demetrius Stone, who hasn't played a lot this year, having a big pressure and then the ball pops up and Jake Coffman makes a play. Those are things you have to do to win games...I think right now we're making some of those plays."
On what he's learned about his team with them winning in different ways
"You win games back in two-a-day camp, spring ball, offseason and all that kind of stuff. I think all of the preparation all the way back to then has been paying off right now. Will it continue in the month of November? We'll see. Baseball it's October and football it's November so we'll see how November goes. To this point, all the things that we have worked on in situations and all of the stuff we do way back is proving out that our kids are executing some of those things."
On his approach going into the game
"Our approach won't be any different. Our approach will probably be even more business-like about what we need to do. I think right now, when you play games in November, the consistency is so important. You can't get so up or down. I don't have to do anything because websites and the media and everybody will make it [big] so I don't have to do anything. My job is to make sure we're ready to play the game, and mentally ready to play the game. I don't have to say anything. I shouldn't have to say anything the next three weeks. You work hard to be in a situation to have some good things happen to you in November. They have that figured out. My job is to make sure they stay grounded and stay with the business-like approach and that's what we need to do. It's our last home game, as Donna Turner has talked to me about, it's the senior's last home game. You always remember that game. Those kids have accomplished a lot in the program. I can't go through all of it, but they really have. They've done a lot of good things. I know they want to close out well. I think all of that stuff, it's a big game on ESPN2, hopefully we have a huge crowd, certainly needs to be loud when they're offense, and all of those kinds of things are great. I think through the week in leading up to the game our coaches will keep the same approach as we have all year. I think that will keep our team consistent. If we don't keep our same approach then they'll think something is up so we haven't really changed."
On if Toledo losing their starting quarterback to injury has changed his preparation
"I don't think it's affect it, they played three of them last year and beat our tail ends. [Coach Tim Beckman] has done a great job recruiting. The kid is an athlete. It's not going to change what they do offensively. Toledo has two or three extra days so they'll add four or five different formations, four or five different plays. That's Toledo. That's what they do and they're good at it so who's back there or what's back there isn't going to change the philosophy that they have. Tim believes in his football team. He believes in his kids. It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback, you're going to have to prepare on defense. Sometimes it's like preparing for ghosts, they're going to do some things that we'll have to make some great adjustments to throughout the game because of what they do offensively."
On this being a rivalry game
"I don't know. You'd have to ask them. Since I've been here I've taken the same approach. I've been involved in big rivalry games, but I know since I've been here and talking to Coach Novak and people, Toledo is [big]. I've gotten more phone calls and e-mails over the last three days. I just got off the phone with Josh Haldi. You darn right it's important to the Huskie nation, I don't think there's any question about that. Of the last 16, they've won 14 of them. I'm sure that has a little bit to do with it. That doesn't make the Huskie fans very happy, but at the end of the day, my job it to just get our kids ready to play whoever it is. Our kids understand all of that stuff. Consistency is the most important thing you do in life. As a person it's the most important thing you do in athletic events. The teams that win, the ones that are successful are the ones that are consistent every game, and they're not too high and they're not too low...If we keep them [consistent] throughout the week, when it's Tuesday night, both teams are going to be excited and ready to play. I think it's more of a fundamental thing. You can ball fired up and excited for a rival game and we're going to do this, and then the first three plays go the wrong way. I don't want that to happen. I want us to execute and do what we do, play like we're capable of playing. I thought we slipped a little bit in our execution a week ago and we need to get back to the way we were executing the other three or four games before that."
On Coach Beckman
"I don't know coach that well. He worked with a guy that I coached, Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. I think that he is a relentless recruiter, they recruit very well and he's hired a good staff. He's doing what he knows best, recruiting athletes to his system. I think if you listen to him talk you can tell that he believes in his kids and what they're doing and I think that rubs off on their players. It's evident that he's doing a good job. He did a good job last year and he's doing a good job this year."
Willie Clark, Wide Receiver
On the extended preparation time for Toledo
"There really is no difference. Coach Kill has taught us since we've gotten here that we need to take every week one week at a time, every moment one at a time. Sure it's later in the season, but we're still preparing and have been doing the same thing since we got here."
On the offense's late drive last week to take the lead
"It was basically a result of practice. In practice, we constantly do drives down the field and we try to prepare for situations like that. When it came around to game time we achieved it. We successfully did it so it shows how practice correlates to the game."
Jake Coffman, Defensive End
On the pressure of holding their own destiny in the MAC West race
"The implications are good. The pressure, I don't really feel a lot of pressure because every game we have that goal in mind to get to the MAC title game. This one is important, but so was last week's game or this week's or next week's. I think it's just like Coach Kill always says, it's just another day at the office, it's just another week.
On if he looks at NIU's past against Toledo
"The past has helped create my dislike for them. That's as far back as I get. I don't look at the records, per say, or how many times they've beaten us. I'm just taking it like any other game and preparing for them like any other strong opponent."
Chandler Harnish, Quarterback
On staying even-keeled heading into a big game
"It's really to keep it even-keeled with the way we practice. We go out there like it's the first week of the season. We do the same things every week. We go against the one's defense with the one's offense, and we practice intense. We just play football and don't look too far ahead. The coaches do a great job of setting that mindset in us."
On facing Toledo's defense
"They play a little bit of a different structure, but nothing that we haven't seen. I think what we do well is that we don't turn the ball over. You have two different, very different types of teams coming at each other. I think if we don't turn the ball over, we'll be just fine."
Demetrius Stone, Defensive Back
On his feelings going into the Toledo game
"I really expect to come out there and just play like how I've been playing the in all of our games. It's just the next game."
On the secondary's play this season
"Coach Sawvel, he just makes sure that every chance we get we go back to the basics, our technique and covering people. With our drill work, he makes sure that we're top of it."