Nov. 22, 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 Ball State game and preview the upcoming contest with Eastern Michigan. Linebacker Tyrone Clark (St. Louis, Mo./Mehlville), wide receiver Landon Cox (Calumet City, Ill./Thornton Fractional North) and offensive lineman Keith Otis (Chicago, Ill./Hubbard).
Jerry Kill, Head Coach
"We went to Ball State and I thought our kids, for the most part, I thought we played with energy and was very focus early in the game. I thought we lost a little bit of focus in the third quarter, but gathered it back. I thought we played hard and physical, maybe as physical as we've played all year. We just need to play a little bit smarter at times. It was a good win, a good win for our program and now we have to march on to a short week and get ready for Friday's game against an Eastern Michigan team that is a totally different team than what they were a year ago. I think Coach Ron English has done a great job. They play very physical, very hard, and you can tell he's putting his stamp on things. We have to get ready to play and continue to get better."
On Eastern Michigan being a different team than they were last year
"Anytime you're a coach, it's no different than when I first got here, and you go into a new program, it takes you awhile to get what you want philosophy-wise and those kind of things. I know his personality and I respect him very much. I know he was very good to me throughout this particular year. It's one of those things where he's a hard-nosed, tough guy. His defense right now is going run and chase the ball. They're physical. They're going to get after you. Offensively, they're utilizing their quarterback, who is their best player, and their running back, and holding on to the ball and making it tough on you by keeping the offense on the boundary. Then they're very good in the kicking game. The big thing is that I always judge people by how they play on film and how hard they play. They're a physical group. That's no disrespect to Ball State, but this will be a more physical game."
On resting the team after clinching a spot in the MAC Championship game
"We're not pro football, we're college football and you have to play each week and get better. We have a tremendous amount to play for right now, and we're not going to change our preparation except for we're on a short week. We're going to prepare as hard, work as hard, and get this team ready to play Eastern Michigan just like we have every week because it gives us an opportunity for us to win 10 games in a regular season. That would be a tremendous accomplishment for those guys that have been in that locker room, certainly, those seniors who when they took the job were 2-10. I think we have to continue to move our program along and to do that we need to go up and play well."
On what the motivation is to continue winning
"The big thing is that I laid out for our program is who you want to be, where you want to go, talked to our kids last night in the team meeting is that you have a chance to win 10 games, that's a tremendous thing. I think there are only 19 teams in the country that still have a chance to do that...I think we're the only one in the country that's only played five home games and has an opportunity to do it. There are a lot of things; you want to go in with momentum going into the next game, you want to be playing your best football. There are way too many things for us to play for us to not go play well. If our aspirations are going to want to be a really good program, then we have to go each week and take care of business. The best example I can give you right now is Boise State goes out and takes care of business. It doesn't matter when they're playing or what week it is, they take care of business; the TCU's of the world. If we want to be a good football program, be a good football team, we have to go each and take care of business, and get better doing it."
On Alex Gillett, EMU's quarterback
"He's a guy that's a lot like what I think Jordan Lynch will be some day. He can throw. He's a physical runner. At the same time, about the time you say well, he's just going to run the ball, then he can throw it. He's a two-dimensional guy, but he can run like a running back. They're doing a great job up front with their people. They're down-scheming a lot, pulling people. They get angles on you. They are doing a great job coaching their kids of doing what they can do with their team right now. They're getting an identity of what they're going to be like or what he wants them to be like. It's a different scheme that they'll throw at us offensively than we've seen all year. It's going to be a great challenge for our defensive guys in such a short period of time to get ready for it. They've done it, if you look; they've scored points on everybody. They've done a good job scoring points and holding the ball."
On the holiday schedule
"I hope we do something different than we did last year cause we got [beat] by Central Michigan...We're not going to do a lot different. We'll hopefully prepare different. I hope our football is more mature than it was a year ago, and hopefully we play better. As far as what we're doing, the toughest thing about this week is that we're going to try to work a practice in with about maybe three-quarters of our kids today, which is difficult. We couldn't practice Sunday because they need that time off. We're on a short week so we'll practice Tuesday and we'll practice Wednesday mid-morning. Then for the guys who are traveling, we'll have a Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, kind of our pregame ritual, so to speak, and have a good feast. Then we'll practice here Thursday morning and then hit the road, take that nice 6-hour trip to [Ypsilanti] and do what we did at Ball State, pretty much the same routine, go play Friday early in the morning and hopefully play well and accomplish what we set out to do."
On the potential of moving into the Top 25
"That's out of my control. I am a voter, and I will not tell you how I vote, that will be public knowledge later on. The big thing is, it's all part of it. You talk about the importance of this game, how do you motivate them, well that's motivation right there alone. There's a lot to play for so [finishing in the top 25] is another carrot you can throw out there. You can throw it out there to the kids, `hey, you have an opportunity if you keep winning to do some special things.' But it all goes with winning and you have to get better at doing that. To this point, these kids have listened to me. I was worried to going into the Ball State game of that focus and that energy because we came off of such an emotional game versus Toledo, but to be honest with you, our first quarter, offensively, I thought our tempo wasn't real good, but defensively, the first half we gave up 55 yards. It was a dominating performance defensively. Then like anything, we got up and then they let up a little bit, which I wasn't real fired up about, but that's something we talked about yesterday."
On the personal foul penalties in the Ball State game
"There were no calls for chippiness. We had a deal on the goal line where we had a kid make a play and they said it was head-to-head and they called that. We had a situation where we had an aggressive block on a punt return, which was a personal foul. The only one that I was upset with, and I went out to about the hash mark on, is we had a young defensive end, it had nothing to do with chippiness, he kicked the foot of the guy and got a 15-yard penalty. I don't know whose fault it was, don't care. I don't condone that and I took care of that. That was the only one that I considered a stupid, stupid situation. The other things were just aggressive football. That was one of the things I put on the deal, no dumb penalties. Yesterday, I had a power point presentation and I don't believe in dumb penalties and that was a dumb penalty. That was not a smart thing and that will get you beat. Jumping offsides on PAT field goal block, that's stupid, but those things are addressed and that's something we need to get better at."
On the team's health
"Right now, just like anything, I'll know more today. We had a couple. Darnell Bolding who plays tremendously hard, maybe one of the hardest playing kids I've ever had with what he's being doing. He took a pretty good shot in the thigh and he's limping around a little bit, but I expect him to be able to go, but we'll see. Other than that, I don't have anything to report."
On the strength of the
"I think our strength is our defensive line, I've said that all along. We roll 10 bodies out there, maybe 11 on Saturday. I think the freshness and we're able to roll in different people to the defensive line where we don't get fatigued and I think that's helped us not be injured up, so to speak. We do not have a lot of depth at linebacker. We have more depth in the secondary than I thought we would have due to some injuries with Tracy Wilson. Tracy played some on Saturday, which was good to see. He's still rusty, but he did some nice things. I thought we really, really played well in the first half, we played physical, physical football in the first half. Then we got up, and it's just like anything when you come out, and it's like I told our kids, `you have to keep the pedal on even if you're up three scores, you have to keep playing.' It's easy to let down, but you can't. That's not the defense, the whole thing, I think we kind of let up there for a time in the third quarter, which we have to keep the pedal on and keep going."
On his rotation at this point in the year
"It's kind of like they said in the old days, `if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.' What we do is what we do. If we have somebody not playing very well, then he won't play, but right now we go through everything and the kids and players. We'll go through special teams and if we had somebody who didn't play very well, we'll take him off special teams and we'll put somebody else on there. That's the thing about competition right now, which is a good thing. We travel to Eastern [Michigan] and can take only take 65 kids and we probably left eight or 10 that thought they should have traveled this week. I had three or four of them in my office wondering what they have to do to travel. That's a good problem. Before, we couldn't get 65 so that shows we're getting some depth at some positions. Competition is great."
On letting off the gas against Ball State
"We played hard for four quarters in all the other games in the second half, it's just this particular game. Eastern Michigan is good enough to beat us or anybody else in the league if they play their tail-end off and we don't come to play or if we play average, we'll get our tail-end beat. They proved that two years ago when they beat Central [Michigan] in the same situation. When you're dealing with 18-22-year-old kids, you don't know what they're going to on Saturdays, that's why it's such an interesting deal and we tune in every week to watch college football because you just don't know what's going to happen. I can tell you that I was nervous at Ball State. I was more nervous at Ball State than I have been all year, and I'll probably be more nervous for this game than I've been all year. I want to see us get better. I'm no different than you all, you feel like you're starting to get a good team. I can't classify us as a great football team yet. We're a good football team, but we've got too much room to improve to become a great one, but I'd like to see us get there. We've got this week and we're guaranteed the next week. Hopefully, we'll get a bowl deal and all that, but we're guaranteed those two. We're running out of time. I want to see us get better and better and peak at the right time because I don't think we've peaked yet. I think we can be better than what we are, I believe that."
On spending the holidays on the road
"It's a good thing. I've been coaching a lot of years, I don't know how many, but it's a lot of them, all the way back to high school football. If you play in the state championship, you're practicing on Thanksgiving. I've done a lot of all day things. We've seemed to be able to do it all on the road. Families adjust. It's all part of being in college football or even high school football. As high school football coach, I thought it was a great time of the year. It was a lot of fun if you were still practicing. Coaching, you could write a book about our lifestyles. It's totally different than most people. It's unique and you have to have a unique wife, which I'm fortunate to have. You have to have great kids and I'm fortunate to have two beautiful girls who understand what their daddy does."
Landon Cox, Wide Receiver
On the evolution of the wide receiving core
"Obviously, the core has always been motivated. A lot of times we've been counted out considering our style of play on offense. Last year, those guys were pretty much capable of doing the same things they're doing this year, but the difference from last year to this year is that they're getting opportunities to make plays. Anytime the ball comes, we just make plays. We just go into each game with that confidence knowing that we've prepared and have done what is needed to be done to be able to be successful out there during the game, because during practice we push ourselves to the point where the game is easy. That's what we've been doing since the winter, during the summer, in individual workouts when we go out there with the quarterbacks. We've developed that camaraderie that we needed to become a successful core."
On the mindset of the receivers
"Whatever the game plan is, whether we have to excel in blocking--that's a big part of the game--we have to excel in catching balls down the field, beating man-to-man coverage, running good routes in zone coverage. Whenever our name is called upon, we've done a pretty good job."
Tyrone Clark, Linebacker
On finishing the season
"We have a ways to go. Like KO [Keith Otis] said, to go from 2-10 to 10-2, that's a big motivation for us and that keeps us driving. Coach Kill mentioned something yesterday about driving the spike and finishing. Our goal is to drive the spike to the finish the season off right."
On the defense trying to reach is peak
"Each week as we watch film, we always see things that we can always do better. I completely agree with Coach Kill that we that we haven't because we always see something that we could've done better. We continue to try to reach that peak that coach wants us to reach."
Keith Otis, Offensive Lineman
On playing during Thanksgiving break
"Once everyone else on campus is gone, we kind of leave too because it is a Friday game and we leave a day earlier than usual. Really it will just be that Wednesday when we're here and everyone is gone, and then we'll be hitting the road. It'll be the same old routine, just bumped up a day than usual. We'll probably get our Thanksgiving meal here on campus before we leave, and then have our regular pregame meal when we're on the road. I think everything will as usual, business as usual. It's all about winning and that's type the type of focus that we have. We just want to win. Period. Whether people are here or not doesn't matter."
On the team trying to peak at the right time
"I don't think we've peaked until everybody is going 100 percent across the board in games. Hopefully, if we keep climbing that ladder, even after the bowl game, we never peak. As long as we win games, that's all that matters. Like Landon [Cox] said, as far as gelling, I think we've done such a great job getting better at the core week after week. As long as we continue to get better, guys consistently have better scores in the games, then we'll be fine."