Nov. 7, 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 home game against Ball State. Joining Carey were defensive lineman Ken Bishop, quarterback Jordan Lynch, and linebacker Michael Santacaterina. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
"The game against UMass feels like a lifetime ago already and it's Thursday. I'm really pleased with that game. I think we handled the travel well. I think we handled the game pretty well. We got out to a fast start, which is what we like to see. Then pretty much all day, minus a couple things here and there, we kept the gas pedal down on the floor and kept doing what we had to do in all three phases of the game.
"Again I'll say it, I have a lot of respect for Coach Molnar and his staff and what they're doing and what they're building out there. It's no small task they're undertaking, and they are doing their part and the football is getting better. So I have a lot of respect for them. Certainly, I'm sure they didn't have the outcome of a game they wanted, but it still doesn't change my respect for them.
"Getting on to Ball State, obviously we've got a fine football team coming in here. I think they are 9-1 after last night and you just look at all three phases of that team; it works together, it works in conjunction, and they're well coached. They have a taste for winning right now. I think confidence, like I've said with 18 to 22-year-olds, is an amazing thing. You get that confidence and all of a sudden they're playing like it.
"It's going to be a big challenge for us. Probably, and I don't want to compare but I'll say this, it's the best team I've seen on film right now going into a game on just how they execute their game plan overall. It's going to be a big challenge, going to be a good night, and I expect a big crowd out there. You know we missed our fans for that third home game we had. We flat-out missed them, because the first two games we had them, there was a definite home-field advantage and you could feel it and you could see it. So I'm really hoping and expecting because of the way our fans and our community has raised their expectations of their support of us. So I am expecting a full crowd out there and really looking forward to that as well."
On the level of play defensive tackle Ken Bishop is playing at
"It's really hard because you're always taking on either one or two blockers before you make the tackle. I think he's doing a great job of fundamental football and that's where it starts and ends when you play defensive line. Are you playing fundamentals? If you are, you're going to have an opportunity to make tackles. I know Ball State has a good one too in [Nathan] Ollie that has a bunch of tackles too, so I think it's going to be good to see two real good D-tackles going at it here this next week."
On the importance of Ken Bishop to the defense
"Well, he's been vital, I believe, just in everything that we do. When you have a player like that, how can you not say that they are vital? So it's been important and we're glad we have him."
On if he thought of the importance this game when first looking at the schedule
"You know me; I've never looked past one game in my life. So no, cause I didn't look at it. I really didn't know how our first conference game till we got done with conference. I walk by that sign by the Yordon everyday, I guess I never pay attention to it. People say, `Oh you're lying. You knew.' I don't, I just got other things to do. Now I know."
On what makes Ball State a challenging opponent
"They throw really well and they run it really well, to be really general for you. It's not that they've got some scheme that's going to go ahead and wow you and go ahead and create a million problems, although they have a great scheme and it's well coached, I just think the execution of it is what you look at. They are in year three into their system, similar to what we are here, and you can see that the execution is at a high high level right now."
On the impact of this game on the Mid-American Conference
"Yeah, from that side of it and being on ESPN2 and people talking about it, from the side that it's bringing the MAC up and in discussion, I think is a really good thing. I don't know. I think you guys know it better where it will fit. I just know that anytime NIU can be on ESPN2 by itself with us out there at a home game; I think it's great for our university."
On if Ball State reminds coach of any other team
"That's a good question. I don't compare teams, so they don't really remind me of anybody because every team is so unique and different. They do exactly what they are supposed to be doing all the time. That's probably the best complement we can pay to them. They seem to never be out of position, never out of scheme, and they play good fundamental football."
On Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning
"He's a pocket guy but he's running it a little bit more now. I think last night he had a couple where he kept it around the end. He looks to throw first. You have that `dual-threat' label now and the `pro-style' label; he's probably more in the pro style than he is anything else right now. I certainly don't want to put him in a box because he's a good football player."
On what Wenning does really well
"His accuracy throwing it. His footwork is tremendous. You throw the ball with your feet first and his feet are always in a good position. He has really good chemistry with his wide receivers. I think all of them have been playing together now for three years. When we had them here two years ago at our place, they were just getting to know each other. Now they're well seasoned together."
On if he is worried about the layoff
"As coaches, I've said this before, we worry about everything. Of course I'm worried about that. I think in some regards, the 10-day bye is a little bit better than the 14-day because you get to rest, but you don't get to get rusty. We took some time off, back on the field. Need to take one more time off, then really you're into game week. Saturday is our Tuesday, Sunday is our Wednesday, Monday is our Thursday, Tuesday is our Friday. I think there is a good balance in that time frame. I kind of like it."
On if it's better playing on consecutive Wednesdays
"I don't know if it's better. I think when you win, you can always say something's better than when you loose, you'd say something's worse. I just think when you flip the switch and you get back into Wednesday-to-Wednesday games, you're back in that seven-day cycle, which is what we are all used to as coaches. You put in three real days of 16 to 20 hours a day and the next day is probably 14 to 16 and that next day is about 10. So that's kind of what you are used to."
On running back Cameron Stingily's health
"I wouldn't say he's 100 percent but I would say he's a lot better than he was. I think he moved around yesterday really well. So I'm really pleased with the progress he has made and that has been a product to getting rest."
On the 24-game home winning streak
"I think I'll look back on it a lot more in December and really be proud of it. You're proud of it right now but right now we got to get the next one and that's our focus. I'm proud of it and happy for it but right now our focus is right there next Wednesday."
On if the players are playing at an elevated level at home
"I think so. I think you're comfortable at home. Now it's only our fourth home game in 10 games so we have some comfort with it but not as much as being on the road. We certainly like being at home and like being around our fans and our community so I think that plays into it."
On Ball State's defense
"They just play so fundamentally sound. They stop the run with their front. They do enough things schematically that keeps you on your toes and then you couple that with some really good players. I know they are playing some young guys up there too, but at this time in the season, you can take that freshman label or sophomore label and erase it. No one's a freshman or sophomore any more, they've all played too much football. It's a seasoned group now that is just always in the right spot. You have to earn it."
On the special uniforms this week
"It's not only military appreciation, but it's heroes appreciation day. We teamed up with Active Heroes and we really wanted to go ahead and recognize the heroes you have in your community as well as the military, both are so important. We're trying to get some police involvement and some fire department involvement and just community people like that.
"We really wanted to benefit Active Heroes, that does a great job as a charity of really helping groups like that. We teamed up with them, came up with this thought, and I think it's a real good thing that we're auctioning off these jerseys that our guys are wearing. You go online and you bid for them, and high bid gets that number that you want. I thought it was a great idea when we all sat down and came up with it, and it couldn't go to a better organization in my opinion."
On how Ken Bishop is able to be so disruptive
"His first step is really quick. He uses his post hand really well, and then when he gets his other hand in there he can shed a block extremely quick. He has good hips so his body can torque, so when he's shedding a block his feet can be going one way, and his upper body can be going the other. When you have that combination and you put it with the way he prepares through the week of watching film and knowing what he's going to get and being able to expect certain things versus certain things, then you have a real dangerous player."
On if he sees Ken Bishop playing in the NFL
"I hope. I think he's deserving of it, but I'm not an NFL scout. Scouts come through here all the time and talk to us about him. We've had a scout in here every day, just with everything going on. Not just with Ken, but with everyone on our team, but yeah, I hope he does."
On Ken Bishop's transition from community college
"I don't think there's anything natural about football, but as far as getting adapted to life at a major university like NIU, I think that takes time when you're coming from a junior college. I don't care if you're a student-athlete or an athlete, I think that takes time. A general student would have that problem too, but then you tie in football, and the more people you have around a football program here than you would at a junior college, I think that takes time. I think he did a good job of progressing. I wouldn't say it's quicker than most, but I certainly wouldn't say it's longer than most, I'd say it's right on schedule with what we expected, and he's done a really good job of."
Michael Santacaterina, Linebacker
On the rivalry against Ball State
"Like Jordan said they're a great team. I know two years ago we had a tough game at home that came down to a penalty call. Last year they were up at their place, we came back and won. They're a great team, we're excited about this game, and we're ready for the challenge."
On Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning
"He's a great quarterback. He was there last year, we knew of him last year. He's got a lot of playmakers on the outside he can get the ball team."
On Ken Bishop's impact
"Ken has been having a great year. He makes it easy for us in the linebacking group, he's always taking on double teams, taking on blockers, it makes our job a lot easier, making big time plays, making tackles in the backfield, quarterback pressure, stuff like that, so it's great having Ken."
Ken Bishop, Defensive Lineman
On having this game against Ball State as one of the few home games
"It's really nice. We know our fans are looking forward to it. Like you said, we only have a few home games, so we look forward to playing at Huskie Stadium and bringing the fans a good game."
On Ball State's offense
"Offensively they're very aggressive. We know they like to throw the ball. They have a good solid offensive line as well as a lot of receivers. They come out and they attack expeditiously, so we're just going to come out and make sure we're prepared.
On his performance and large number of tackles
"I attribute it to my practice habits really, by being able to get off blocks, run to the ball, and play with an aggressive attitude. I don't think of it as I'm a D-Tackle, I shouldn't get this tackle, I think of it as I want to get up field and try to make the play."
Jordan Lynch, Quarterback
On the rivalry against Ball State
"Yeah, I know in the last two or three games we played them, they always gave us a great competition, and it went down to the wire in the last few seconds, so I think this rivalry is starting to build up."
On if at the beginning of the year he expected the MAC Championship to depend on this game
"I know last year, I think they finished pretty strong. In their season ender, they were one of the toughest opponents of the MAC last year, they gave us trouble at their place. When the schedule came out, you try to take it only one game at the time, but everyone takes a peek a little farther and saw we had Ball State.
On if the team needs to go to another level over these next few weeks
"I don't think we have to do anything out of the ordinary, we just have to be ourselves going into this game, and we have a lot of talent, we just need to focus on this next game without getting too far ahead."
On if this team can get to another level
"I think so. I think our best is yet to come with this team."
On the game being nationally televised
"It's good for Northern Illinois and the Mid-American Conference, it'll get us some good exposure out there for some people who don't necessarily have a chance to watch some Mid-American Conference football. That's great for us, and will give us great exposure, so we have to come out and make sure we're ready."