With a couple extra days before Tuesday's game at Toledo, NIU coach Dave Doeren has the opportunity to rest some of his players and still get a full week of practice.
The Huskies' first-year coach took advantage Wednesday. Senior quarterback Chandler Harnish and left tackle Trevor Olson, along with junior defensive end Sean Progar, were among players who went without pads Wednesday.
"Sean has been very productive for us," Doeren said. "He practiced hard [Tuesday], and just wanted to get him healthier.
"Same thing with Trevor. He's taped his hands, his ankles, his elbows – everything. So I just wanted to get him back where he's feeling 100 percent.
"And Chandler has taken a lot more hits than some quarterbacks. So a chance to get him right before we get cranked up on Friday."
NIU defensive coordinator Jay Niemann on defensive improvements: "Over the course of eight games, what's made it hard is we've had different breakdowns every week. It hasn't been consistent. If you could put your thumb on what was wrong, you'd be able to fix it because it would just be isolated. But the breakdowns have been because of different reasons. Everything from, going all the way back to the Central Michigan game, having balls thrown over our heads and not tackling very well. Other problems might have been having difficulty getting off the field on third down. It's been never the same problem each week, and that's made it hard."
Doeren on the couple extra days off: "It's good. [Tuesday] we cleaned up a lot of things. We went back and really self-scouted ourselves and took a lot of time to clean up things that we know we can do better. Obviously, you're introducing Toledo, but it was more about fixing us. We've got a good start on some special teams stuff in the game."
Doeren on weaknesses seen through self-scouting: "I think there were just some blocking things offensively that could be cleaner. In certain games, we were really on our targets. In others games we weren't. Some of it's rules, making the rules easier for guys. Some of it's personnel, helping those guys. And some of it is just getting healthy. And defensively, the inconsistency. And really, Saturday, I thought until the four fourth downs in the fourth quarter – and obviously, we didn't get much help – but you've seen improvement three weeks from those guys."
Doeren on UT WR Eric Page compared to WMU WR Jordan White: "I think Eric obviously is a big screen guy and a returner. So when you see a guy who's as good of a returner as he is, you know he can do things after the catch when he catches those short routes. Whereas I thought Jordan was more of a route runner, could catch the football down the field on you. Not that Eric can't go deep – he can – but he gets a ton of yards after the catch. And that's the thing you can't let happen. You've got to be able to tackle him after he catches it."
NIU safety Tommy Davis on Page compared to White: "Jordan White, he's a big receiver. He does play in the slot, but he has the ability to play outside some. He catches more down-the-field balls. Eric Page, he's trying to work linebackers, getting screens. A big part of Toledo's offense is throwing screens. They like the screen game, they like the quick game."
– Ryan Wood, @rwood_DDC on Twitter, firstname.lastname@example.org