Nov. 15, 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 game at Toledo. Joining Carey were offensive lineman Ryan Brown, tight end Luke Eakes, and defensive end Joe Windsor. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
"We'll talk about the game two nights ago. We played a quality opponent in Ball State. What can you say? Their quarterback, that kid is fantastic. Their team is really good, and I really believe to date, that's the best team we've played. For us to come out on top in a close ball game, the final score, we kind of pulled away a little bit, but for most of the game, it was a really tight back-and-forth match. I'm really pleased with the outcome, but not only the outcome but how all three phases played. Our defense held that offense to only three points in the second half. It was a great job by our guys on defense and by our coaches making adjustments and getting those things stopped that were hurting us in the first half.
"Offensively, I said what I said after the game and I believe that. We played really well offensively, and for Jordan Lynch to not be in the Heisman conversation, I think people probably fell asleep if they aren't talking about him. I still stand by that.
"Special teams-wise, I was really happy. We gave up a couple returns there that weren't really what I'd like to see when we're kicking off. It was a windy night, so some of the kicks were shorter. They got it out a little farther than I wanted them to get it out.
"Overall, all three phases, I'm pleased with it. We were obviously self-critical of ourselves yesterday. It wasn't perfect by any stretch. There's still a lot of improvement. I do believe the best football has yet to be played by this football team. We're getting better, and we're making progress towards that.
"Moving forward now to Toledo, they're a fine football team. We have to go there. It's going to be a hostile environment. It's going to be Wednesday. It's going to be a night game. It's an 8:00 p.m. kickoff, so it's going to be cold. I'm sure it's going to be windy, and all of the elements will play a factor into the football game just like it should when you play outside in November. That's why we play football outside, not inside.
"They have a fine football team. They have a great quarterback in [Terrance] Owens. [David] Fluellen, I know he hasn't played the last couple of weeks, but he's special. [Bernard] Reedy, their wideout is good. Their O-line is playing good again. [Kareem] Hunt, that's the kid who's the backup to Fluellen, he's had a couple of career days too, so he's no slouch himself. He's a good player.
"Defensively now, they've changed up by going from an even front to an odd front. They're really moving around and trying to create headaches as far as running the ball and throwing the ball. Special teams wise, they're always solid. That's no different this year. It's going to be a big challenge for us. It's a big game. It's the next game. When you go like we've been going, the next one is always the biggest, so here we go."
On how it feels for the Huskies to control their own destiny
"I know that we control that we're going to show up next Wednesday and play this game. From there, I know we've got a conference game after that. There's only so much control you have. You know what I mean? To talk about it in totality I don't think is the right thing to do. We control how we prepare for this game. I feel good about that, but I've felt good about that each week. I don't get into that. I know we control how we prepare for this game. If you don't attack it that way, like I've said before, this ball is oblong, so it bounces funny. You've got to control that."
On how pleased he was with the NIU's lack of penalties vs. Ball State
"It's probably the number one thing that I was pleased with in the game. It's really hard to go through a game with no penalties. To do that, you probably have to be fortunate. We probably were in some cases. That's something we've been harping on. We've needed to get that done. The ones we can control, we got controlled. There weren't any in that game. I was certainly pleased with that."
On NIU's improvement in the penalty department as the season has gone on
"I think the discipline part of any football team, the longer you play, those are the things you have to pay attention to. I think we are."
On how Jordan Lynch's play inspires his teammates
"I've said it all along that he is a leader in every way, shape, and form on this team. I think that when our team is standing there and he's on the field offensively and they're making plays as a unit, that also inspires the defense to do that. It's not a coincidence, believe me. When our offense is making plays, our defense makes plays. They feed off of each other. You can feel that as games go."
On what Jordan Lynch will have to do to get invited to New York
"I don't know, because I haven't looked that far ahead. You know me. I do know what I see every day. I think that he's a fine football player. Whether he has a big day or doesn't have a big day in one of the upcoming games or in this game, that doesn't change my opinion of him. My opinion of him is that he needs to be in that conversation.
"I think he had a good game. I think there are some things he needs to improve upon too from that game. I may be being nitpicky, but I think he sees that. He's already been self-critical. He wants to keep playing better. I can tell you that."
On the program's ability to seamlessly progress through coaching changes
"The name you didn't mention is Joe Novak. That's the foundation. All three of us, Jerry [Kill], Dave [Doeren], and myself, are all standing on the foundation that Joe Novak built. His office was in a closet over on the west end, and here we are today. He did that by just rolling up his sleeves, locking his jaw, and getting it done. We're the beneficiaries of that. There's a blueprint set here. It's not a real detailed one because you've got to put your own imprint on it, but there's a blueprint. All three of us have done that. None of us have been dumb enough to try and change that. If something ain't broke, don't fix it. That's why I think the program is where it is."
On how the new facility impacts recruiting
"I can speak internally. Our softball team has been in there almost every single day. Our golf team has. Our baseball team has since it's opened. I know track is using it now. We've obviously used it. We still practice outside because you play outside. You think of the ramifications just from an athletic department's perspective. Just start there. Our athletes are going to be able to train year round. We're not going to have to go over to DeKalb Rec, where we're limited on time or space. We're going to actually be able to practice our sports.
"Take our kickers for example. They haven't been able to kick in the offseason. Matt Sims has never had the benefit of being able to kick in the offseason. Think of that. Now, he's going to be able to kick. He's a senior, but the other kickers coming up are going to be able to kick all offseason. I think the ramifications for that are huge from our development standpoint. We're going to develop a lot quicker.
"From the recruiting side of things, you walk around in there and you get the, `oh my gosh' factor. That's the factor you're looking for in recruiting. We've got it."
On how proud he is of NIU's road winning streak
"You know, you and I really ought to go get a beer or something in the offseason to talk about all this in January because I think it'd be a great conversation. I really do. I'm proud of everything we've done, but sure, the road wins are great just like the MAC wins are, just like the home wins are. Until you just asked me right there, I hadn't put one minute of thought into it. I've been on Toledo's defense all morning, so it's kind of consumed me a little bit."
On if it is a mental thing playing on the road
"We've played 10 games now, we've had four at home so, a majority have been on the road. There's an element that you're used to being on the road because you're in that rhythm. Last week, I think we had 60 recruits out for our home game on Wednesday night. When you go on the road, you don't have that. You don't have all those things to do. Some of that's good, that you're just together as a unit."
On if he's concerned about getting the team up emotionally to play a second consecutive big game
"That is certainly your mentality and not mine because they've all been big games. I think our team believes that too. Each week has been a big game. It started with Iowa, went to Idaho, so on and so forth. Each week is a big game. Each week is the biggest game because it's the next game. I don't worry about our guys getting up because we've done a pretty good job of it so far."
On how Toledo likes to use Fluellen
"They hand him the ball and let him run. They just like to give him the ball, and I would too if I had a player like that. He's earned the right in that offense to carry it as many times as he sees fit because he's special. He's a guy that is going to have a chance at the next level. Although I'm not a scout, so I can't speak to any of that. From what I see, he sure is special. They just hand it off to him. They get him out in pass routes too. He's got great ball skills. He can catch the ball out of the backfield too."
On how Toledo's skill players compare to Ball State's
"I think Reedy, their wide out, is special. I really do. I think he's a special football player. He's got that get-up-and-go along with those great quicks. Fluellen, the other back Hunt, and Owens are playing really, really well. He's a good quarterback. I think it's real similar. Their offense probably doesn't get as much recognition as Ball State's because Ball State has the three wide receivers and the quarterback that are getting recognition. I'm telling you, Toledo is every bit as good."
On Sean Evans warming up but not playing vs. Ball State
"He wasn't quite ready. Hopefully he'll be closer this week."
On why Joel Bouagnon did not play
"That was a decision that we made. That wasn't a decision that we made lightly. We were trying to find a way to get him in the game. In a game back and forth like that, all of the sudden we looked up and it was later. We just felt like with ball security being such an issue, for a guy that hasn't touched the ball already at that point in the game, we felt like we didn't want to put that at risk. He is going to play this week. I can guarantee that."
On how he assesses Draco Smith and Joel Bouagnon after seeing them play a couple games
"I've had more than a couple games to see them. I've been with them since fall camp. I'm really excited. Two young, good running backs. I think their upside is way in front of them. I think they're going to have nice careers here. With that said, potential is the dirtiest word in football. You have to go ahead and do the work. They've got a lot of work ahead of them, but they've got a lot of potential ahead of them too. I give them credit for where they're at right now, and I want to see them go forward."
On what response he gets from other coaches about what NIU has done
"This time of year, I don't get much from other coaches because we don't talk. I just see these guys in here all the time. I can go back to the offseason when I talked to people then, and I think there was a respect level out there for what we've done. That what we did was deserved, and that was nice to hear. It always goes back to `what have you done for me lately?' We've got to keep stringing it together here little by little. I think there is a good sentiment overall."
On the response NIU has gotten from a recruiting standpoint
"People asked me last year about the Orange Bowl effect, and I said it'll probably be more in the years to come. I think that we've seen that now as we go in and from the response we've gotten from coaches and recruits, the name recognition is really out there right now. It can be better, but it's certainly better than it was."
On if NIU has been able to get in some doors it hadn't been able to open recruiting-wise
"There you've got to be careful. It's like trying to date the prettiest girl when you already have a girlfriend. You've got to be careful. If you start dating the prettiest girl, you won't have the girlfriend for very long. What we've done here recruiting-wise has been pretty good, so we're not going to change our philosophy a whole lot. Are there other opportunities? Yes, there are. You still don't get very far from home on that deal."
On Jordan Lynch's comments about NIU getting disrespected
"I think probably what Jordan was saying was in response to just in general the national media perceives what's going on here. I think that's what he was saying. I don't want to put words in his mouth. He wasn't speaking from a high school coach's perspective like I just was because he's not out recruiting. Thank God. I don't want to say where he was coming from on that, but I think that's where he was coming from. I wouldn't agree or disagree, because I think we're talking about two totally different things."
On if he pays attention to the national media's perception of NIU during the season
"I don't. I've got two kids at home and a wife. I've got a building full of people in here that work together nonstop, so I don't have time. Between that stuff and recruiting, it just is what it is."
On whether or not Tyler Loos is gone for the year with his leg injury
"Yes. It's his other leg. I don't want to say it wrong because doctors get mad at me when I say it wrong. He has an open ankle fracture. Last year in the Toledo game, he suffered an open fibula fracture on the other leg. You want to talk about the worst luck in the entire world, he's had it. Before those two, the year before he had an ACL injury. I've been through the wars with that kid, and it breaks my heart for him. We're in the process with Tyler of just getting better right now. We're not in any other process of making any decisions moving forward. We're just trying to get him better. He had surgery out in Boston, and now he's back on campus getting around on one of those scooter things. It's one day at a time for him."
On Akeem Daniels' status
"It's that dang foot. It's that toe. There's not enough blood getting down there. That's a hurry up and wait thing. We can't make any decisions about whether we would or wouldn't play him until we know whether or not we can play him. Right now we don't know if we can."
On the Drew Hare and Matt McIntosh
"Well they haven't got a whole lot of a chance to play, so I don't know yet. I think we've got good quarterbacks on our roster. I think we've recruited some good ones that will be joining us too. We didn't try to replace Chandler Harnish. We just tried to get Jordan playing. You can't replace a guy like Chandler. You can't replace a guy like Jordan. You just try to get the next guy in there doing his job. I feel good about where we're at right now with that."
Ryan Brown, Offensive Lineman
On the team's success on the road
"We just try to treat it like a business trip. As Luke mentioned, our coaches do a great job at preparing us for what we are walking into, so there are no surprises on Saturday. They make sure everything is ready to go."
On transitioning to left tackle with the loss of Tyler Loos
"I've been playing right and left tackle all year, so it helped. It wasn't that big of a difference it was staying on one side the whole game. It was nice just not having to switch for blocking schemes. It helped a lot playing both sides all year."
Luke Eakes, Tight End
On whether or not Toledo is NIU's biggest rival
I do. They're a great team. We've had problems with them in the past and they always come out to play well. They're always fired up to play us and we're fired up to play them. So, I consider them our biggest rival."
On why the Huskies have been so successful on the road
"We take everything into account when preparing. Our coaches explain what we're getting into really well. They show us pictures of the locker room, we see the field and the stadium before each game, and they show us the atmosphere that we're going to play in. They do a great job at getting us ready to take the field."
Joe Windsor, Defensive End
On Jordan Lynch and how he impacts both sides of the ball
"You always want to see your teammates do good, but seeing some of the plays he makes, makes us want to get him back on the field so we can watch him again."
On his interception against Ball State
"I was in the right spot at the right time and you just have to capitalize on those moments."
On if the crowd played a part in Ball State's false start penalties to begin the game
"I think so, they're a pretty big hard count team. When you have a crowd like ours they get loud for you and it makes it difficult to use a hard count."