DeKALB – Make no mistake about it, Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill wants his team playing fast tonight.
In order to do that at 6:30 p.m. against Eastern Michigan (0-8, 0-4 MAC West), at Huskie Stadium, Kill believes he has learned from something that happened earlier this season to the Huskies (5-3, 3-1 MAC West.)
“I thought we played so hard at Purdue [a 28-21 victory] that when we played Idaho [a 34-31 loss] everybody wanted to say ‘Well you had a letdown.’ I just think our kids physically were tired and we played slow and methodically,” Kill said after Tuesday’s practice.
That’s why the Huskies shortened practice considerably this week and did not practice with pads on, nor was there much hitting. That’s by design to ensure what happened against Idaho doesn’t happen on a five-day turnaround against the Eagles.
“If we go out here and shoulder pads like this the past two days, then our bodies are going to be beat up and slow,” Kill said. “By doing what we’re doing, we should be fresh, or fresher than we would be.”
Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said playing fast also means playing with a consistently quick tempo.
By doing that, and doing it with fresher bodies, the Huskies can run their offensive more effectively, like they did this past Saturday in the fourth quarter against Akron.
“Early in the season we had a lot of guys downfield getting involved in second and third blocks, working to help spring big plays,” Limegrover said. “We’ve started to get back to that and that’s what we stressed.”
In what likely will be quarterback DeMarcus Grady’s third consecutive start with Chandler Harnish’s unspecified right knee injury keeping him out of Tuesday’s practice, Kill hopes that continued improvement from Grady and an emphasis on playing with speed and a fast tempo will lead to putting away the Eagles sooner rather than later.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we need to come out there with some energy,” Kill said. “Even though we didn’t get a lot of points early in the game, we dominated the first quarter of last week’s game. I think we need to do the same. We need to come out with lots of energy and a lot of focus. It gives us a chance to get Grady a lot better.”