Dec. 3, 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 MAC Championship vs. Bowling Green. Joining Carey were Offensive Coordinator Bob Cole and Defensive Coordinator Jay Niemann. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
Head Coach Rod Carey
"Obviously Western Michigan was a week ago tomorrow so it feels like a lifetime ago. It was a cold night and it made throwing and kicking the ball really hard. You can see that on film probably more than you can actually remember it up close and personal. I'm really happy with the win, happy the way our defense played. I thought they played outstanding the whole night and offensively, we did enough to win. Obviously Jordan (Lynch) ran the ball really effectively and I'm really proud of the offensive line, tight ends, and wide outs. That's a tough night when you're a wide out, and you're not getting the ball and when you do get it, it's like a lump or a rock coming at you, it's unbelievable. But they blocked like they did all night and I was certainly proud of them in doing that.
"It was good but like I say, it was in the far past now for us. We have been going since right after Bowling Green beat Buffalo. We have been going on them nonstop. I've said it and I'll say it again, probably the finest football team we've played to date. All three phases fit perfectly. You can tell they've been together as a staff for a while. The systems haven't changed, they've just gotten better. On defense, we played them two years ago. Out of that two-deep, they have 14 players still on the two-deep today from two years ago. On offense, they have seven coming back from that two-deep. So they are an experienced team, a proud team, and really play the game the right way and are explosive in all three phases of the game.
"It's going to be a big time challenge for us and we're in the middle of getting going right now and kind of finishing up that game plan and you just don't see a lot of weaknesses in their game. So you're going to have to make a play in this game. It's going to come down to your fundamentals and preparation and guys making plays, because everybody is going to be lined up in the right spot the whole time."
On if previous trips to the MAC helps with preparation
"Yeah I think in the preparation, we're used to working this week. I think when it comes time to travel, that will be an advantage but after that, the advantage stops. You still have to play the game. Just cause you're used to it doesn't mean you're going to make the plays again. So you've got to go out and make the plays."
On being able to accomplish what NIU has done in his first season
"I'm so in the middle of it that I don't have time to step back and look at the big picture. Like I've said, I think I'll have a lot better perspective in January because I just got done watching 45 minutes of film on their third down package. I mean I don't know how we're going to do against that. I'll just give you the off the cuff. When you are so involved in the process, it must mean you're doing something right. We've been all locked in and all involved in each week's process and that's certainly the case this week. I guess what I say by that is we must be doing something right because we're focused on just one little thing at a time as a staff and as a team."
On if the defense is fresher in the second half of games
"It's a good question, I haven't thought about that so I don't know. I just think that it's a matter that we make adjustments and those are good, but I think it's a matter of dealing with 18 to 22-year-olds and when you get them out there at first, they might be a little nervous. Then once they settle down and get their cleats into the ground, they play pretty good. So it's come at different times for our defense. Last game, I thought it happened the whole game."
On if Carey thinks NIU hasn't played their best game of the season
"Absolutely I do. Last game, the defense played well all throughout. The kicking game, some of that was weather induced and wasn't what we wanted it to be. And then our throwing game wasn't what we wanted to do, some was weather induced. Like I've been saying all year, you're either moving forward or you're moving backwards. I think we have a much better game in us yet."
On the importance of two extra games on the program as a whole
"No doubt this week helps but it's kind of a double edge sword for me. Everyone else is on the road recruiting right now and we're trying to do that over the phone when they are on the road. But yet you balance that with having extra practices this week. Some young guys on some teams are done and they won't practice again and we have this week and more to come. The practice is crucial for the development of your football team because recruiting is inexact and so you got to get them in a develop them."
On the ability to keep players focused
"They have read so much, more than probably I do cause of social media. It's one of those cases where listen, it's not bad to be in this position and there is pressure but its good pressure, but there is still a job to do. If you let that seep into your daily routine that means you're not doing your daily routine right. That's the most important thing when it comes to football. It is the smallest of things is the biggest of things. So that's how I think we're doing that and we've done a good job of that. I give credit to our seniors. Seniors need to play like seniors but seniors need to lead like seniors for you to be a good football team. Now we're getting close to being a good football team, we're not there yet but this game will go a long ways towards that. Their leadership this week is key."
On if there are any team rules as far as social media like twitter
"You know I know some people do. I don't. If you have rules, how are you going to enforce them on social media? The NCAA requires us to watch those things, so we do that and we have those safe guards because some kids eligibility has been affected by social media. So we have those safeguards but you can't monitor all. For someone to say we know exactly what's going on with our guys social media wise every day, they are lying to you. We have a real good pulse on it. All I told them was to stay focused on this week and if you're spending time doing social media or spending time doing something else, you're not spending the time on this week.
"This week is big not just because of football, this is our last week of classes and then we come back for finals next week. I mean this is a huge crunch time. So they don't have any time. They have to study and go to class and they have to come here for football. I told them they probably don't have much times for girlfriends either, so tell them that when you see them in a week."
On if the secondary is the strength of the defense
"You know it's funny how that's turned out. I believe we're playing good football back there. I think Jimmie (Ward) has had a phenomenal year and so has Dechane (Durante) and Paris Logan, a guy who in fall camp was running with the twos consistently and now he's a starter and has probably played the most consistent cornerback play we've had. Then a guy like Jhony Faustin has played really well as a senior.
"Sean Evans has been dinged up for most of the year and I'm hoping to get him back. Marlon Moore has played good. I know sometimes the numbers don't reflect that cause I hear you talk about that all the time with the numbers. As I look at it, yeah we gave up a play but just because that play went for 60 yards doesn't mean we're playing bad. I think overall we're playing really well on defense. No matter what the numbers say, I believe what's on the film."
On what Carey reaction if someone told him the circumstances of this year last season
"Last year at this time I was dealing with a whole bunch and I wouldn't know what to think. I wouldn't have had an answer last year at this time. Last year at this time I was in my office down the hall and I was buried in tape while Coach Doeren was up here."
On if this game is any different from last year given the expectations
"No, because, and we talk about this as a team, no one has higher expectations for this team than us. So those haven't changed and everyone wants to talk about the pressure now like it's some mounting thing. Hey, there has been a lot of pressure on us all year cause we put it on ourselves. Pressure isn't a bad thing; it's a good thing because that's what gets you to perform."
On if Florida State's 2013 season puts last year's Orange Bowl in perspective
"I don't like to think of that game, because we lost. The only thing I'll say to that, and I haven't paid that close of attention, because obviously we've been doing our own thing, but I don't know anybody in the country that's had them 17-10 in the fourth quarter this year, I don't know if there is anybody. I know we did, and give them credit, they made all the plays and they beat us sound. I'm not trying to make a mountain out of mole hill here, but I think you gain a little perspective when you look back at the tape instead of the final score."
On the interaction with his coordinators
"You can't do it without them. Bob (Cole) and I have been together for three years. When Bob and I first came, I was the O-Line guy, he was the wideout guy, and then last year, he became the quarterback guy, and I was still the O-Line guy, and then obviously got the OC job. I've always said this on offense, I don't care who's calling plays, it can be your O-Line guy, it can be your quarterback guy, but those two positions have got to work in conjunction, because that's kind of where it all starts. Not that the other positions aren't important, because they are, but that's where it all starts.
"Bob and I's relationship, I value him like no other, because of our working relationship and how we interact. We think on opposite ends of the spectrum. We start there and we end up here. Coach Tripodi taking over the O-Line this year has done a phenomenal job, kind of fitting in there to what my role was. Coach Tripodi thinks a lot like me, so they kind of start on opposite ends and bring it together, and I'm still in there quite a bit too.
"Then Coach Niemann, quite frankly, is probably the best coach that I've been around when it comes to being right here steady, and he knows what he's gonna do, he knows how it should look at the end, but he knows he has to go through the process to get it there. Look at our defenses. They've been good every year he's been here. The first year, we started out rough, look at how it ended up - really good. Last year, they had all those guys back there, they had all those numbers and stats to make everyone think they're really good. I think they're really good again. We can't do it without them. The other coordinator I'll put in there is Kevin Kane, in his first year coordinating special teams. He has a lot of help from Tim Polasek, but Kevin has run our punt team all three years we've been here. Through the change in staff, made him the coordinator role, so he oversees it. He's an organized, detailed young coach that gets it, and really takes a lot of pride in that. Those three guys are the guys that I go right to them, and they have an answer for me, and we go from there."
On his comfort level with Jordan Lynch
"It's amazing. We had comfort with him last year, before all the attention, just because what we saw in practice. The kid just never gets rattled. You always say as a coach, you never want to seem rattled so your players don't. It works both ways, sometimes your players get rattled, and you get a little shook up. That's been a good feed back and forth between coaches and players this year, not just Jordan, but our entire senior class. It's like, okay, something bad happens, let's move on, let's get it going. It's unbelievable feeling that way."
On what Jordan Lynch can do to improve his profile
"Well, I'll tell you this, I don't think he's worried about enhancing his award status, I think he's worried about winning this game. I think then if you do that, then the other kind of takes care of itself. Really all we ever ask for in any game we ever play is a chance in the fourth quarter with the ball. If we've got that, we're doing a pretty good job."
On Bowling Green's defense
"Well they attack the line of scrimmage with their front four, and then on third down, they're not afraid to get after you with the blitz, and play in man-to-man coverage. That group has played together for three years, so if you put those three things together, everyone likes to talk about the Big Ten with Michigan State's defense, I've seen some of their film through crossover games, very similar attitude. They attack. That gives you a point of reference. I think that's what makes them tough."
NIU Offensive Coordinator Bob Cole
On his relationship with Jordan Lynch
"He's a guy that shows up every single day the same way. He's always in a good mood, clowning around when he's in the office, and then when he gets out on the field, it's all business when things get kicked off. That's the kind of special kids that you never have to worry about. Is he gonna come in this way or that way? He's the same guy every single day, and the kids on the team feed off that."
On how much input Jordan Lynch has on the play calls
"He has quite a bit. I mean, we watch a lot of film together and he'll say `What do you think about this?' and it kind of goes back and forth like that. He'll probably get anywhere between four, five, six plays in a week, which is a lot for a player."
On Jordan Lynch avoiding tackles and staying healthy
"I think he's done a better job this year of getting out of bounds sometimes instead of trying to truck everybody every time he carries the ball. He's being a little bit smarter with his body, and he's a lot healthier right now at this point in the season than he was last year. Last year he was all banged up, and this year he's if not 100 percent, I'd say real close."
On how Jordan Lynch's game has improved this year
"I just think mentally, he understands the offense. He's been in it a year now, and he does a great job of not taking chances and very few times we turn the ball over or force things in there, he'll tuck it away and go if things don't look right. So I think in that respect, he manages the game a lot better than he did a year ago."
On the playmakers on offense benefitting from Lynch
"I think when you have a guy like that behind the center, you're gonna have to commit a lot of people in the box, and that helps out. Guys on the outside, they're seeing a lot more one-on-one coverage this year than I think we've seen in the past, and that gives them a chance to go up and make plays. As far as those guys go, Da'Ron (Brown) obviously is having a big year, Tommy (Tommylee Lewis) has done a million different things for us, and Juwan Brescacin has come on extremely well in the last couple games. Our tight ends are probably the most unsung heroes on our team with all the blocking they do, and they catch the ball well. They do a good job running after the catch, so I think with Jordan back there behind the center, people commit quite a few people in the box, and then these guys get a chance to go play, and they make the most of it."
On Bowling Green's defense
"Their defensive line is right up there with Iowa's defensive line, same thing with their linebackers. That's the best front seven we've seen all year up until this point in time, and they're as good as them, maybe not better. I think the thing they've got going for them now is they've been together, I think they have seven or eight kids that have played together for three years on the defensive side of the ball. They're extremely sound, they're well coached, and they fit in their gaps. You're rarely going to find them out of position, and they're aggressive. Then they have good enough defensive backs where they can sit there and play man to man on you, so they can do a lot of things up front with their front seven, so it's gonna be a good challenge for us. They're a good football team."
NIU Defensive Coordinator Jay Niemann
On how the defense steps it up in the second half
"Well, they do a good job with the sideline adjustments. I think a lot is said about halftime adjustments, but truth of the matter is most of the adjustments are beginning to take place somewhere in the second quarter, and you can just finalize all those thoughts and get them permanent. Sometimes you get caught in a three and out on offense, or something happens in the fold of the game, where you don't have time to make all the adjustments you'd like in the second quarter, so like I said, we started most of those things and the processes underway, and then at the half we just finalize it. The kids have done a great job with understanding what we're trying to do and taking those adjustments into the game in the third quarter, and to their credit they've executed and we've improved in the second half."
On what concerns him most about Bowling Green
"They're a very diverse offense. They have a lot of offense in, which is normally the case when you get 11 to 12 games deep in a season. They're very diverse in their run game with a lot of formations. A lot of different kind of shifts and motions that you'll have to adjust to, and we'll have to be real sound on all those to make sure we're lined up right and our guys have their feet set, cleats in the ground, and they're ready to play and they know what they're looking at from a key standpoint."
On if he's expecting trick plays from Bowling Green
"In this game, and what it means to both programs, you've got to expect anything and everything, obviously we can't prepare for the unknown, and that's where your fundamentals come into play, and those fundamentals are what you have to rely on to carry you through those situations, because we can't defend something we don't know what it is, so we just have to wait and see what it is when we get to it, but I'm sure they'll have some wrinkles, definitely."