Oct. 4, 2011
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 the Huskies upcoming game against Kent State. Joining Doeren were Quarterback Chandler Harnish, wide receiver Martel Moore and linebacker Pat Schiller. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
Opening Statement“Come back after a tough loss, and that’s a comment I’ve made a couple times. like I told the team after the game, for whatever reason, we’ve been through some very difficult games this season. I know we’ve grown as a team from them. We had a great meeting as a team when we got back here. I still believe, and all the players on this team, believe in the coaches on our staff. I haven’t lost one ounce of what I’m trying to do. I believe this team is in a process going through some serious adversity on its way too much better things.
“Our offense leads the conference in almost every category. they know they still left some plays on the field in the first half. they know they can play better. our defense is not producing the way I’d like them to produce. By any means are we giving up on those kids, absolutely not. I think there’s a process that they’re going through. We need to make more plays on that side of the ball, and we will. our coaches and players are dedicated to the task of making that happen. “We come home this week for a big Hall of Fame game against a Kent State team that is playing extremely well on defense, creating a lot of takeaways. I know our offense is excited about playing a team that runs around like they do. I think they’re coached well by coach Heacock. they have a linebacker, no. 43, is extremely productive. Their defensive tackle, no 5, was one of the best players in the league last year production-wise and in the country. We have a great challenge. I think you see two sides of the ball, their offense and our defense, that are both struggling right now with a lot of youth. Both sides are going to be coached extremely hard and extremely well. That’s our challenge this week, to play a four-quarter game, to improve on the defensive side of the ball, to not leave plays out there on the offensive side of the ball. I do think we did some good things on special teams last week that we can continue to build on.
“Right now we’re a 2-3 team that lost two very close football games. like I told the guys, you don’t get to take plays back. But if you make four or five different plays, you’re a 4-1 team and everyone is patting you on the back. Reality of it is you’re a 2-3 team that fighting hard for what we want. our identity obviously is something we want to take care of this week when we come home. We’re very excited to be back home and look forward to the challenge with Kent State.
On how soon there will be improved defensive results“I wish I knew the answer to that. I would have liked to have said that you’d see the results already. We were seeing progress. I think after the Kansas game you saw us tackle better in the Wisconsin game against a really good team that had great tailbacks. our safeties that made tackles in that game that we didn’t make two weeks later. The biggest issue now is being consistent. I think you can say that to any football team that’s losing a tight game. It’s the consistency at times that can cost you. Making one more play.
“Now some of the older players that understand exactly what’s going on are stepping up and saying, `Not on my watch,’ and, `This isn’t going to happen. I’m going to be the reason we win.’ this week I’m hoping you’re seeing what we’re talking about. We’re going to do everything the same way; we’re not going to panic. I’m in this for the long haul. There’s a big picture here for our program that we’re building. our players are very prideful guys about being Huskies. We want to go out on the field and make people proud about what we’re doing. We know we haven’t done that every week, and so we’ll continue to fight to make that happen.”
On whether it’s the schemes or the execution“It’s execution. there are guys in position though. If you go in there and watch the film, you’re not going to see – obviously there was the one play in the Kansas game there’s a blown coverage – but that’s not what’s happening. There’s guys there missing tackles. there are defensive schemes that are called that they shouldn’t hit you in that place because a guy’s supposed to be there and the guy’s just not doing a good enough job getting there. I don’t care what you call on offense, defense, special teams; you have to execute the call to make it work. That’s the bottom line right now. The execution needs to be better. Really, maybe it’s not as much that as it is the finish sometimes.
“Kent State is probably saying the same thing. I’ve read their stuff about making some bigger plays down the field. You watch the film; they’re throwing good balls to the receivers. Receivers are going up and sometimes they come down with it, sometimes the defense breaks it up. Both of us, on those two sides of the ball, have to become better finishers of what we’re doing. and that’s what we’re going to fight to do this week.”
On the option of changing the defensive scheme“I don’t think there’s any panic. I think the natural thing to do is to say change our defense. But if we do that, we’re back to ground zero. We will get better, and the kids will know the schemes better. Honestly we haven’t changed a lot schematically from what they did a year ago. It’s just that there’s 10 new guys out there. even Pat Schiller is new. He didn’t play middle linebacker last year. Sean Progar and Tommy Davis are the only two guys that started in this defense a year ago. all those other guys are now going through, unfortunately, the growing pains of what you go through. That’s where we’re at.
“I’ve been through this at Kansas, our first year, we went through this on defense. I think the last thing you do is give up on your players and give up on your scheme. You hold to what you believe in, coach it better, get your kids to understand it better, and you keep playing hard. Right now our offense is shouldering a big burden, and they’re up to the challenge. If you ask any one of those guys, they’ll tell you that the defense isn’t the reason we lost, the team is the reason we lost last week.”
On moving on from losses“I think every loss, when you lose like we did at Kansas, the last play and the way we fought back into the game. We were close. Perez’s toe is inbounds, we’ve got two shots from the 50 to win it. Scoring 17 points in 47 seconds would have been a great story. I said this after KU, the more you invest, the harder it is when you lose it all and we invested a lot in that game. There’s nothing different. They’re 18-22 year-old men, and they’re just like their coaches – they want to win. You have to come in here and evaluate. The one thing I think our guys will tell you, I’m not a grey area guy. I’m going to tell you what I did, what I didn’t do good, I’m going to tell you what you didn’t do good. Then we’re going to talk about how all of us are going to fix it together. We’re not going to point fingers, we’re going to stay together and be a family. That’s what families do; you don’t turn your back on each other in tough times, you get around each other and help each other. That’s where we’re at right now as a team.”
On catching some tough breaks on defense“Last week, they had a pretty good little trick play where the quarterback acted like he was falling down, the tight end fell down on the ground and got up. Guy makes a throw with two hands in his face and the guy finger-tip catches it. I mean wow, great play, huh? But did we need that right there? no.
“Like I said, why are we going through that valley, because in the long haul, it’s going to make every kid in this room tougher. now it’s our job not to let it happen again. I’ve been through enough tough lessons for a season. It’s been a challenging five games in a lot of ways. But at the same time, it’s going to make these next seven, for us, we’re going to be better and stronger as a team because of it.”
On the challenge Kent State’s defense presents“They do a lot of things movement-wise. They’ve got a couple special players; they’re well-coached. I know our offense is excited and respects them quite a great deal. But we’ve played against some good defenses this year also. it does present a challenge with all the things they do. They’re a big pressure team. I think our offense, at the same time, presents a challenge to them. It’s going to be a great game.”
On the team’s prospects for qualifying for the MAC Championship game“I’m not worried about that right now, I’m worried about our team. One of the coaches said it in there, I don’t remember who it was, but you’re really in the playoffs. If you want to get to Detroit, you’re in the playoffs right now. My focus is more on us not beating us, as opposed to us beating seven teams. I think if we go out on Saturday and play against Kent State instead of playing against NIU, we have a great chance of winning. What I mean by that is catching the ball when its thrown there, executing the play call to the best of our ability, not having a mistake in reading a signal or a mistake in the terminology; letting our ability to take over as opposed to allowing someone to play with us because we’re not sure. The first interception of the game was just that, a miscommunication. That wasn’t them doing a great job, that was us hurting ourselves. That’s seven points, at the end of the game, would have been a tie.”
On the slow start at Central Michigan“The third play of the game, we threw an interception that would have been a touchdown for us. We called a double-move that we ran, and he was wide open. If he throws the ball to where it was supposed to go, that sluggish start was us being up 7-0 on the third play of the game. as fast as things went wrong, they could have gone right. We came out, had a great warm-up, guys were fired up in the locker room, things didn’t go our way early, and all of a sudden we’re down 17 to nothing. it had nothing to do with practice. I just think we hit a situation there early in the game where things didn’t go our way and didn’t handle it well until the second quarter. That’s the biggest thing.
“As a team, you have to look at why those things happen. It’s execution. It’s not just the offense making one mistake, it snowballed from there with a big play on difference. on their first long touchdown pass, we were in a deep zone defense where we should have a post player. when [Rashaan] Melvin got beat in the post, there should have been help there for him, and there wasn’t. That’s execution. Those two plays, to me, define the loss. there were two plays where we had good calls made, one on offense, one on defense, that we didn’t execute the right way. That’s us doing a better job getting our guys on the same page, and the players, understanding exactly what they need to do in those situations.”
On the feeling on the sideline in the first quarter at CMU“I think there was a little bit of, `What’s going on?’ Some of the older guys didn’t flinch at all. Hey, there was a ton of time. there was 10 minutes left in the first quarter when we went down. it was like, we have a lot time. I’ve seen us score a lot of points. So a lot of the guys just kept playing. Some of the guys that are more emotional than others were being vocal about it. it was just us calming them down and going back to what they know they can do, and do it. You saw that happen in the second quarter. We came close to making it a game there right before the half, and what happened in the fourth quarter happened.”
On team having a chip on their shoulder this week“That’s what we would like to see. You saw that with Cal Poly a couple weeks ago. We were disappointed in what happened at Soldier Field, and we responded with a win. just like we’re disappointed with what happened last week. That’s what you would hope. It’s no different than when the defense gets scored on, what’s your response as an offense, to go score. on Saturday, they scored touchdowns and we scored field goals. That’s not the response. We have to answer points with points. We need to create takeaways when they create takeaways. That’s what we need to do better this week.
On if the defense is losing confidence“That would be a natural thing. I think they want to play well; they have a lot of pride. they need to go out there and have a great performance to feel better. I know that they believe in what’s going on, it’s just a matter of getting the product the way they want it. I’m sure if you’re sitting here 4-1 and they’re still not playing well, you’re going to have the same guys saying they want to play better than they are. I think everyone on our team has an urgency of holding up their end of the bargain. Right now, it’s easy to point the finger at them, but that’s what I’m not going to do. I don’t think we can say that anybody on our football team or our coaching staff is responsible. We all are; it’s all of our work. So that’s how we’re going to take it. We win together, we lose together, and we’re going to get better this week together.”
On his involvement with the defense at practice“I’m not the defensive coordinator. For me to go down there and every now and then jump in and tell them how to do something, when that’s not how they’re telling them in the meeting, now I’m hurting the cause instead of helping. My role has really been to guide our players, try to keep them positive. I really focus on fundamentals in practice and helping the scout team guys give both sides a great look and helping them be ready. when I do see a fundamental issue with a player, I talk to them. I really feel like my role on this football team is to guide, motivate, and to lead, not to coordinate one side of the ball or the other and I’m not going to do that.”
On gaining experience as a head coach“I think the process I’m going through right now as a head coach, you always want to do more. You have to decide at what point are you being a master of nothing. If I try to do everything, I’m not helping anybody. I hired these guys for a reason. These guys were recruited here for a reason. even though I didn’t recruit them, they’re good football players. We do have some depth issues at certain spots. I do believe, having gone through this process on four or five different staffs, I understand what my role is here. I know as I continue to do this job, I’m going to get better each week. I did as a coordinator. I know my fifth year as a coordinator, I was better than my first year. I’m going to continue to get better as a head coach as I go.
“By no means am I sitting here saying I know exactly what I’m doing every second of the day. I’m going to get better. I’m sure you guys as reporters get better through your job as you do it over time as well. I’m not blind to the fact that each week I’m going to learn something. I’m going to take that situation and get better from it. That’s the thing I tell our players. I don’t have a problem with the guy that makes a mistake; I have a problem with the guy that doesn’t own up to it and fix it. I’m no different. I didn’t come here to be the offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, or special teams coordinator, I came here to be the head football coach. My job is to help all three of those phases any way I can without being in their way, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
On sticking with the current schemes“Couple weeks ago, we went back to the basics. when we got done playing Army, we felt like fundamentals was something we were way behind in just because all option had us behind in, and then we had to do it all over again with Cal Poly. We haven’t added schematics to what we’re doing. We’ve just tried to get better with fundamentals and scheme, and obviously we’re not anywhere close to where we want to be there. If you look at how our guys were aligned, where their eyes were, their angles to the football – all those things were better if you take the Wisconsin game to the Central Michigan game. The difference was we didn’t tackle well. when the ball was in the air, they made more plays than our guys did. We have to come back and continue to work. and that’s what we’re going to do. I think if you do less, better, that’s something we’re trying to do.”
On defensive personnel“We don’t have a lot of options at linebacker, because of our situation there. In the secondary, there’s a rotation. I think Jhony Faustin will play a lot more. He’s done a nice job for us making some plays. Jimmie Ward continues to contribute and could be around the ball in a lot of situations, whether we’re in a regular or our nickel packages. biggest thing that we do is rotate on the defensive line, and coach Nielsen believes in rewarding the guys that grade out the best with the starting job.”
On what he’s learned about the team“They need positive reinforcement. I really believe leadership is a positive influence and not a negative one. You have to show guys exactly why things are happening and how they can be prepared. The one thing our players haven’t shown is any quit. they were down 17 points for most of that game, and they made it a game until the last seconds on the clock. There’s no quit. That’s the thing I’ve learned the most about them. they really want to win, and are open to learning. But they are young, particularly on defense, and need a lot of guidance and leadership there.”
On the challenges Kent State presents“Kent State, defensively, is top-five in the nation in takeaways. That’s the biggest thing that you see when you’re playing them. they do a great job of getting to the ball and creating plays. they strip it, punch it, rip it; all things that good defenses do. They’ve got a couple players that are top-five players in the league right now, as far as production, their linebacker and defensive tackle. Offensively, they’ve got a big back that’s running better and better each week, Trayion Durham, who I think is a very good football player. they just got a quarterback back from an eligibility issue that may create some juice for them. not sure how good he is because there’s no film on him yet, but they say he as a pretty strong arm. You look at those kinds of things, but it really comes down to us doing what we do.”
Chandler Harnish, Quarterback
On bouncing back after the loss“It’s never easy to come back from a loss – especially when you have a six-hour bus ride coming back home. The last couple days haven’t been easy. But today the sun came up, it’s a great day, and we’re focused on Kent State. Last 48 hours haven’t been good, but today’s a new day and I think everyone’s excited to get back out there.”
On the challenges the Golden Flashes pose“Kent State’s a great defense. I think they were fifth in the country last year in total defense at the end of the year. they have some great players, Roosevelt Nix, and have some pretty good linebackers. even their secondary flies around. You watched the Alabama game; they forced Alabama into three interceptions. They’re definitely a good defense; huge challenge for us. But we like to think we’re a pretty good offense. I think you probably have the top defense versus the top offense in the conference. We’re excited, and definitely need to bring our A+ game this weekend.”
Pat Schiller, Linebacker
On comparing this defense to the others he’s been a part of at NIU“It’s definitely tough when we’ve had some really solid defenses here since I’ve been here. But you can’t look at the past, you have to look at the now. We each have to look at what we’re doing, and reevaluate what we’re doing. The coaches put us best possible positions every week to win. as a defensive leader, we have to execute, I have to reevaluate what I’m doing, and make sure everyone else is doing their job as well.”
On how the defense can perform better“It’s just a matter of everyone playing their one-11th. it really comes down to everyone playing assignment football. like I’ve said, the coaches put us in position to win every single week. It’s up to the players to execute their assignments. We’ve shown that when we execute our assignments, we’re pretty good. when we don’t, it creates holes in our defense, and offenses will take advantage of that.”
On the defense’s performance against a number of different offenses“You can’t really excuse it away. bottom line, we practice, and we should make those plays whether we’re playing a triple-option offense or a spread offense. Facing two triple-option teams, maybe we weren’t used to getting into a pass drop as much as what we would be. But we faced Kansas, we got in the spread a little bit. So we should be ready to play.”
On Kent State’s offensive scheme“Watching film, they really run a similar style of offense as Central Michigan. and Central Michigan ran a similar style of offense as Wisconsin. So it’s really good now that we’ve got two teams that we’ve already seen, that we’ve already practiced for and faced that we’re starting to get more comfortable with our defensive scheme. It’s really going to be a lot of the same kind of stuff.”
Martel Moore, Wide Receiver
On moving on from the loss“I’ve been thinking about our mistakes, and all the points we left off the board. I moved on to Kent State right away. The slate of games is fixed; we just have to take one at a time now.”
On what NIU needs to do moving forward“It’s a seven-game stretch. We have to be us. and being us is playing fast, playing to the best of our abilities. We have talent on both offense and defense. Basically, we need to go out there, be us, and these games will come easy to us. as long as we play hard, loose, and together, offense and defense, on and off the field, we’ll be all right.”