DeKALB – Dave Doeren stood near the 10-yard line Saturday night, a place he’s frequented the past several months. But never like this.
To his left, Doeren saw a sea of students wearing red and standing to cheer. Fans in the nearly full west-side stands showered support. The players he coached since December locked arms, swaying back and forth to the pulse of the crowd.
“It was surreal,” Doeren said. “When those guys were rocking back and forth, it was hard to even put into words how fun that was.”
Northern Illinois’ first-time head coach had plenty of those moments during his team’s 49-26 win against Army (0-1). Few compared to that.
When players sprinted behind him, through midfield and to their east sideline, Doeren said his thoughts were empty.
“Total elation,” Doeren said. “That’s about as fun a moment as you can have. To stand there and look in their eyes, we knew how ready they were. These guys were so hungry.
“When we were rocking back and forth, I knew it was going to be a great start.”
He was right.
NIU jumped out to a 35-6 halftime lead, which increased to 49-6 late in the third quarter. His offense was explosive, piecing together quick scoring drives. His defense forced turnovers and limited points, while special teams set the tone with a punt block returned for the game’s first touchdown.
The game seemingly was over 10 seconds into the second quarter.
With the blowout, there were more emotions than pressure. Perhaps the most difficult moment happened during the pregame.
“When they delayed the game, I had to walk in the locker room,” Doeren said, referring to kickoff’s 10-minute weather delay. “But that’s just what our guys do. They handle adversity so well.”
“I was kind of thinking, ‘Man, if it’s just 10 minutes that’s all right, but I don’t want it to get any longer than that,’ “ Schiller said. “You’ve got a certain preparation going into a game. You get stretched out, you go in the cold tub, you take a shower – do all that stuff. You start sitting for a while, you start getting tight again, and you have to repeat that process.”
Of all the emotions his first game day had, Doeren said there were no nerves.
“It was more just, ‘Let’s get this thing going,’ “ Doeren said. “There is nobody that’s nervous around here. These guys just wanted to play. They’ve been working so hard, and we just wanted to get them out on the field and do their thing.”
Just not before swaying to the pulse of the crowd. Doeren said he can’t wait to do it again.
“I hope so,” he said. “(I will) unless I get blown up on the sidelines and can’t run.”