DeKALB – With disappointment still fresh, Northern Illinois football coach Dave Doeren addressed his team in the Memorial Stadium locker room after losing to Kansas.
He told players to swallow the frustration and move on, it was “time to face Wisconsin.” That last word stuck with senior center Scott Wedige.
“He finally said it,” Wedige said. “Because he said ‘we never want to worry about that team’ before, because it’s only about the week we have. So now he’s saying it, and he’s extremely passionate.”
The word resonated through the room, forcing players to focus on the opportunity ahead instead of the opportunity lost. They waited months for this week, this game. Finally, it’s here, with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday against No. 7 Wisconsin at Soldier Field.
“I was thinking about Wisconsin in the locker room at Kansas,” senior quarterback Chandler Harnish said Tuesday. “[The loss] was already out of my mind, and I was moving on. That’s the way that you have to handle yourself in this business. Playing college football, you have to be able to move on. It’s just like in a game, next-play mentality. It’s the next-game mentality.”
Harnish isn’t the only one who had a clean break from last weekend’s letdown. Players already studied tapes from Wisconsin’s first two wins, which came by a combined 86-17 score against UNLV and Oregon State. Harnish and Wedige said they devoured the Badgers’ blitz packages.
But they watched the Kansas game first. Players moved on from the disappointment, but they wanted to learn from their mistakes.
“Sunday was a tough day, coming in and watching that film,” Doeren said. “After we put it to bed and talked about what was ahead of us, you could see the focus in their eye. The players started coming in, there were a ton of them in there (Tuesday), and you could see they have their spark. I know that they love a challenge, and they have a great one this week.”
“Every time you have adversity, it creates opportunity. That’s what our guys are looking toward right now.”
There seems to be no end to this week’s challenges. Wisconsin has one of the Big Ten’s best offenses and defenses. The Badgers scored at least 70 points three times last season. Doeren, a defensive coordinator on that team, said their offense may be even better this fall, largely because of transfer quarterback Russell Wilson.
But Doeren said the biggest key is moving past last weekend. After the Kansas game, still in their Memorial Stadium locker room, he reminded players their goals still are attainable. That caught Wedige’s attention, too.
“I know for us, it’s a 24-hour rule after a loss,” Wedige said. “Even after a win, 24 hours. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. You’ve got to move on because if you hold onto that loss or that win, it’s going to effect you the next week. You can’t have a hangover from the past weeks.”