Nov. 9, 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 Wednesday night's Mid-American Conference West showdown with Toledo. Joining Doeren were linebacker Tyrone Clark, quarterback Jordan Lynch and defensive lineman Nabal Jefferson. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
"Obviously we are excited about the upcoming game. A little bit of down time that our players have been able to get physically and mentally, with the off week I think it was important for our football team and our coaching staff to be able to decompress a little bit before we get into the grind again.
"Obviously being where we're at right now as a program looking back at the body of work we put together it's been very rewarding. At the same time we know that we are right back into where we want to be here with a playoff game, probably the best way to look at it, with Toledo. Whoever wins this game puts them in position to represent the West in Detroit.
"It's a senior day moment also. For us, that's the most important part of the week is the most winningst class in NIU football history gets to go out on the field at night on national television and play. We'll do everything we can as a coaching staff and as a football team to send them out the right way. Obviously we know we have a great football coming to play us. Last year, that game was pretty storied game. We know what kind of players are in it and how explosive both teams can be. They got the nation's leading rusher and the nation's leading tackler. So you know playing against them you've got two great players with David Fluellen and Dan Molls coming here to play. We are really excited about the opportunity. I think we are about as healthy as we have been since Iowa, so I'm excited about that to.
"They lost a tough game obviously to Ball State, which I think is a great team. Anytime you lose a game you get more hungry to win the next one. That probably adds more fuel to their desire to win. We would love for our fans, students, administrators, faculty; you name to come support us. Not just because it is a big game but because it's a game there are kids on the team that have been here for four years that are graduating from this university that averaged 10 wins a season almost. That is an impressive accomplishment and I would love for them to be sent out to a sellout crowd.
"Ken Bishop was the MAC Player of the Week again for us on defense so I was happy for Ken. Excited for the production that a lot of the players who got in the game versus UMass. We had a lot of guys play and played well. We finished the game with a turnover on defense, a takeaway. Finished the game offensively running the football well with Matt and Matt McIntosh was a part of three touchdown drives. Sebastiano got his first touchdown that was great for him. Keith Harris ran the ball well on goal line and finished some runs and our offensive line continues to impress."
What would it mean to sell out the game
"It means a lot for our seniors. I think they deserve it to be honest with you. When you put a body of work together like our seniors have, these guys are going to have five bowl rings. They deserve a sellout and I don't think that is asking too much from our fans and our students. I know everyone has things to do and it's a weeknight, I get it. It takes a lot out of a person life to give up three hours to come over here but these kids give a lot too and I would love for them to be rewarded with everybody presence."
What type of advertisement would it be for NIU to sell this game out
"I think it would be good for our university. It's obviously good for football and recruiting but you know for the university to show that kind of school pride. I think it says a lot about everybody. It's a brand. It's NIU football. It's the university. There are commercials about the university. It's ESPN's presence, all those things. You don't get better advertising then national television for four hours, 8-12 p.m. It's going to be great for our university and particularly like you mentioned if it's full of black shirts.
What it means for NIU to get to the championship game three years straight
"When you can be a program that sustains excellence that says a lot. NIU has been the winningst football program for a decade obviously. But you mark, at least we do, success by winning you side of the division. To say that we have done that three years in a row is a big deal. Whether we can do it or not we will find out in a week but I know that is something we strive for."
On getting past the Toledo hurdle to help move the program forward
"Toledo has a 29-10 edge in the series and they have won 11 out of 18 games at NIU. They are 19-3 in their last 22 MAC games and two of those three losses were to NIU. They are a great team and for a long time they had 11-straight years where they beat NIU. If we can do it I think it says a lot.
"It's more difficult to stay great to stay and the pinnacle of the conference. Every team has you circled as the team to beat and you're going to get their trick plays, their gadgets, and their best preparation from their staff. Every kid is going to have to play their best and prepare his best or else they are going to look bad. When you are on that like Alabama right now you know every team that plays them knows it's the best team on their schedule. If we are going to keep winning at the rate we are we are going to have that same thing here."
On any concerns about the layoff
"Obviously, any time you get guys some time off you got to break the rust but we needed it. Our guys needed a little time. We were beat up. I know it didn't look like it against UMass but we were. We had seven starters I think not play in that game. We needed that time off and now those guys practiced yesterday. I think we will be okay. We will prepare them the right way."
On what point he learned of the importance of the Toledo rivalry to NIU
"I was told the first day on campus when you have your press conference and tons of people walk up to you congratulating you many of them said beat Toledo. So right away it was a big game here. It wasn't something that I don't think nationally people think of that game. For Coach Novak, I know that it was always him and Toledo for the league all the time. Toledo obviously got a lot of those wins. Coach Kill and his staff I thought got it going the other direction when the broke the streak and obviously we were able to get the win last year as hard as it was. That was a great game so we know what we are in for. When you play a team we are not their rival but we are also they team they have to beat to get to Detroit. We're going to get a great game from him."
On if he had every been a part of a game like last year's Toledo game
"No. Quite honestly I don't want to be. I'm just glad we got the W and that is all that matters last year. I know they felt the same way. I don't think either team defense did what they were supposed to do in that contest and the offenses did everything. Our special teams were fantastic in the game last year so it was a great football game. They had one just like it with Western Michigan where they won 66-63 or something. Last year was crazy in out conference with offense."
On what needs to be done defensively not to have a repeat of last year Wednesday night
"Last year, we had a lot of explosive plays against us and some of those were a result of missed tackles. I think when you play a spread team that has a Bernard Ready and David Fluellen that can run after the hand off and break tackles and run away from you, you've got scorn the ball you got to get off blocks. Schematically we got to leverage the football the right way. Like I always talk about we need to get added people to the ball which means you got to get off of blocks whether it is a stop block or cut block or reach block, we've got to beat the block and get there. We've got to play with a lot of speed on defense, which we will. I think our guys are going to run to the ball extremely hard. We didn't tackle the ball well last year in that game and that is something I think we have done a lot better this season."
On if it is more special to clinch the division against Toledo
"I don't know. For me I just want to get there. I want to beat Toledo because it is a team that stands in our way. I don't look at them as a team that I have bad blood or and ill will towards. We had a great game against them last year. We recruit against each other. We are going to play hard against each other. They're the team that is in our way and we got to do everything we can to come out with a W."
Giving different looks to the Toledo offense
"I'm not going to change our defense because of a game a year ago. We have gotten a lot better since that game. Arkansas State was pretty good and they ran the same system. We played pretty well. Our defense was young last year. That was early in the season. There has been a lot of lineup changes and a lot of growth. We have got to play well in space to defend their offense. They are a very up-tempo offense like us. They get to the line of scrimmage before you can turn your head. We have got to control their tempo, which we will practice against our own offense a lot so we are ready for that. I think you grow as a defense and offense every week. I think both teams learned a lot from that game on what they can do better. I know we did. If you watched out improvement from that game on we played a lot better. Part of that which they did a good job of defensively against Ball State is takeaway. That game last year we didn't take the ball away from them. We got to get some takeaways and give our offense a short field and keep them away from the end zone. A big part of their offense is David Fluellen. I mean that guy is a really good football player. We got to do a great job making sure he does not control the tempo of the game."
Easy to prepare defensively since they see that speed in practice every day
"I think both teams probably have that advantage. You know their offense is no huddle and fast tempo with good skill. So they get to see really a lot of what we do, even though our run games are quite a bit different but we both run the ball to win. I think they throw the ball effectively and so do we. They don't turn it over a lot in the throwing game. They are efficient. I think Terrance Owens take care of the ball pretty well. When they go to pass skelly against each other they are seeing some great receivers and so are we. It does help your defensive backs."
On why Fluellen has enjoyed the success he's had
"Well they got a great offensive line. I think Coach Campbell and his background as an offensive line coach. Their center is one of the best in the country. That helps when you have the guy in the middle directing traffic and opening up things. He is a patient runner and he is explosive when he puts his foot in the ground. You see him just plant and go. Their outside run play against Ball State had two touchdown runs called back on a stretch play that I thought was impressive just how patient he was when he hit the hole and accelerated away. Obviously they are blocking well for him anytime a tailback is running well he is getting holes."
On if a lead will be safe next week
"It will be a 60-minute game for sure and maybe more. We are prepared for that. I think in our minds when you play a game of this magnitude you know it is going to the wire and if it didn't it would be a surprise. I think it is going to be a real good football game."
Tyrone Clark, Linebacker
On what it would be like to play in front of a sellout crowd against Toledo
"Just like Jordan said, it's the blackout game. Period. For it to be sold out would be a big deal, especially with it being Senior Night. It would be a dope way to start the game just like Lynch said. Competing for the MAC West and it all goes hand in hand."
On what it has been like to be on the positive end of the NIU-Toledo rivalry
"We just take it one game at a time, one year at a time. It's good to know that we're on top, but we don't look at it that way. We just take it one game at a time. Toledo is next. It's an opportunity to play them, and it's an opportunity to get a win against them. We don't really feed a lot into, "Who's on top." It is what it is."
On the main reason NIU's run defense has been so good this season
"Collectively as a defense, we try to put a major emphasis on stopping the run. First things first, stop the run. Between the players and the coaches there has been a hard emphasis since Army. We've come together as a group and made that a goal."
On how Toledo's running back compares to other backs NIU has played this season
"I got a chance to see their game and watch film. He's a good back. I give him credit for what he does, but as a defense, we focus on us. As long as we're sound and we do what we need to do, we'll be alright."
Nabal Jefferson, Nose Guard
On what NIU will have to do defensively to keep out of a shootout like last year
"I think for us, our focus is stopping the run, making them throw, and getting after them on third down; having them get in third and long, and you know, just getting off the field on third down. Getting them (our offense) the ball."
On the rivalry with Toledo
"First of all, the rivalry is just two of the best teams going at it. We're both competitors. We like to win, so I think that's what gives us that rivalry feel. Last year was a great game. I was happy to be a part of a game like that. It was a big game."
On how good this year's team is compared to years past
"I think each team is different every year. This team brings a different edge as far as comparing it to last year's team or teams before that. I think we bring a different sort of edge, comparing us to past teams."
Jordan Lynch, Quarterback
On the Heisman hype
"I feel like that's just stuff for the banquet, stuff for after the season. Our main goal is to just get the victory. All those stats and everything, that stuff is not possible without my teammates, without Coach Carey and Coach Cole. They put me in the right situation at the right times."
On if Jordan Lynch felt he could be a Heisman candidate going into the season
"I always set high expectations for myself, so you know, it's sort of surreal having all this talk and everything. But just like I said, the main focus is just getting the victory.
On what it would be like to play in front of a sellout crowd against Toledo
" Yeah, that would be pretty exciting. Just like I said, the blackout game is for our seniors. Coming out there and playing in front of a huge fan base and the MAC West title on the line, it would be kind of cool if to get the victory."
On what effect Toledo loss to Ball State will have on the game with NIU
"They played a very good Ball State team. They gave us trouble when we played Ball State. They [Toledo] still control their own destiny. If they win, they win the MAC West and go to the MAC championship game. They're still going to have that fight and that hunger in them just like we will. It's a rivalry game."