DeKALB – On the whiteboard in the McCareins Auditorium, a room inside the Yordon Center, there’s a poster that lists the Northern Illinois football team’s goals.
The list includes winning the Mid-American Conference West, going undefeated at home, beating Toledo and having a team GPA of 2.75 or higher.
Another goal is winning the turnover ratio in the MAC. So far, that ratio hasn’t been kind to NIU. The Huskies have turned the ball over six times (four fumbles lost, two interceptions), and have forced just three turnovers. That total is good for ninth place in the conference.
NIU forced two fumbles and picked off a pass against Tennessee-Martin, meaning the defense hasn’t forced a turnover against an Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Saturday, NIU faces a Kansas team that’s ranked first in the nation in turnover margin.
Doeren said the Huskies’ negative turnover ratio is disappointing, not concerning. He’s confident his team will get it fixed.
“Some of them are Jordan [Lynch] kind of having to learn his way through being a starting quarterback,” Doeren said. “He’s forced two balls that he shouldn’t have forced this year. That’s a part of playing the position. You’ve got to learn when I should just throw it out of bounds and live to play another down.”
Every day in practice, the Huskies go through drills that deal with stripping the ball out of a player’s hands, and the defense uses a philosophy where the first defender goes after the tackle and the second man in goes for the ball.
Outside linebacker Tyrone Clark, who led NIU with 17 tackles in Saturday’s 41-40 win over Army, said the defense just needs to get more attempts at stripping the ball.
“We go through a tackling circuit, a turnover circuit,” Clark said. “We do a good job in practice. We’ve just got to get it to the game.”
To Doeren, part of the reason the turnovers haven’t been coming is just luck. NIU just hasn’t been getting the bounces it needs.
Against Army, Lynch had a fumble in the end zone that Doeren said should not have been ruled a fumble.
The play wasn’t over turned after a booth review.
Doeren also mentioned the Black Knights’ last touchdown, when quarterback Trent Steelman fumbled the snap, missed his handoff attempt, but still ran for a touchdown.
“That’s just the way it is. Defensively, we’ve forced three fumbles that have bounced right back to our opponent,” Doeren said. “And that’s the difference. Sometimes the ball bounces right into your hands and you run for a touchdown, sometimes it bounces right to their guy.”