Getting some of the younger and inexperienced players on Northern Illinois to play with both effort and intelligence at a consistent level has been a big theme for Northern Illinois this season.
With the non-conference schedule complete, NIU coach Jerry Kill evaluated that theme during Monday morning’s MAC coaches teleconference.
“I think we played hard the first three games, not so much very smart all the time, but I thought we played hard and we’re continuing to get better,” Kill said. “Saturday (against Idaho), we got off to a good start, drove the ball down and scored.
“And then they hit us in the mouth a little bit and our young guys, I don’t think we handled it very well.”
Kill’s approach this week will be based on teaching off of that, but the NIU coach said there won’t be any significant changes to the team entering conference play this Saturday against Western Michigan at Huskie Stadium.
His team has a few things to work on after losing, 34-31, at home to Idaho this past Saturday in a game the Huskies deemed as a poor display of tackling and execution.
“You’ve got to get hit the face every once in a while to learn,” Kill said. “We’re still learning. We still understand that.”
Kill didn’t understate the importance of the conference opener against a team expected to compete with the Huskies for one of the top spots in the division.
“I think this is a real critical game for us on Saturday,” Kill said. “I think we have the capabilities of being a good, solid football team but we have to continue to get learn and play smarter. Sometimes we’re not playing smart right now.”
Injury update: Center Eddie Adamski has a low-ankle sprain but, as of Monday morning, should be ready for Saturday.
“He went out to practice [Sunday] and I anticipate him being able to play,” Kill said. “He’s got a low-ankle sprain but there’s nothing broken or anything like that. We’ll just have to see how the week goes.”
Adamski injured the ankle in the third quarter on Saturday and was replaced by Scott Wedige. With Wedige in that meant four sophomores (LT Trevor Olson, Wedige, RG Joe Pawlak and RT Adam Kiel) were on the offensive line at the same time for NIU.
Quick scouting report: Kill also offered a small scouting report on the Broncos.
“Their quarterback [Tim Hiller], there’s no question about that, I’ve got a great deal of respect for him and the way he plays,” Kill said. “I feel like he’ll have a chance to play at the next level. He’s got a tremendous arm. He’s very smart.”
Quotable: “We found out Saturday that if you don’t block and you don’t tackle, you don’t win. The bottom line is the first three games we blocked and tackled fairly well and we were 2-1 and playing pretty good and Saturday we didn’t block and tackle and we got our butt kicked.” – Kill on Saturday’s loss to Idaho.
Giving away wins: With 13 giveaways already this season, including five against Temple, Buffalo is struggling to hold onto the ball and facing an 0-2 start to the MAC season with a home game against Central Michigan on Saturday.
“Turnovers have kind of been our achilles heal the past three games,” Buffalo coach Turner Gill said. “That’s something that we have to get corrected in order to win some football games.”
Bouncing back: After giving up 38 points and getting shutout against Ohio State, Toledo’s offense rallied to score 41 at Florida International in a 41-31 victory.
“I’m very proud of the way they bounced back,” Toledo coach Tim Beckman said. “I think that we’re still scratching the surface. I think we can still do much more on offense. We’ve got to perform better than we have the past four weeks.”