DeKALB — The first point of emphasis for Northern Illinois' Mid-American Conference opener Saturday against Ball State is not beating itself.
“For us, it’s eliminating the mental mistakes first, whether that just be pre-snap penalties or just post-snap penalties that are stupid,” quarterback Ross Bowers said. “Just really shooting ourselves in the foot stuff or we go from first & 10 or first & 15.”
Huskies offensive coordinator Eric Eidsness said that the issues plaguing the Huskies, from false starts to missed assignments, are the types of simple miscues that have slowed the Huskie offense down.
“We can’t have to beat ourselves and beat the opponent,” Eidsness said. “The focus this week really is, no pre-snap penalties. We’ve done a really good job I think with ball security. The backs have hung on to the ball. The receivers have hung on to the ball and that’s been really good.”
The Huskies had nine penalties for 74 yards in the Vanderbilt game, five of which said were pre-snap penalties.
“We got a 10-yard run and then we jump offsides," Eidsness said. "We had an 8-yard run and then we jump offsides. We had a 12-yard gain and then we hold. Obviously the holding isn’t pre-snap but the pre-snap things are the things we have to eliminate.”
Bowers said in the postgame press conference after Vanderbilt that the offense has to do more.
“Of course its frustrating,” Bowers said. “When you lose three weeks in a row it’s tough. We’ve got to come back as an offense because the defensive has played well enough for us to win.”
Missed chances weighed heavily on Eidsness after the loss, he said.
“We had some plays there that we just didn’t execute. The guys that messed up know what they did wrong and we just have to study and be better in those situations because we had some opportunities to extend some things and fell short in the first half,” Eidsness said. “Right now you come out and play pretty good for the second half, play 18 points, but the first half you spend too much time not finishing."
Both Hammock and Eidsness voiced confidence in the performance of the Huskie offensive line after what they said was improvement in the second half of the loss to the Commodores.
Explosive plays from Spencer Tears, Mitchell Brinkman and Jordan Nettles lent the coaches more confidence in the Huskies’ abilities to string together long gains.
“I think we are starting to develop some chemistry up front which when you can have that type of chemistry you can be effective on offense,” Hammock said.
Eidsness was more detailed in his assessment.
“Obviously their D-line wasn’t Utah or Nebraska, but it wasn’t bad ... but we sustained blocks better,” Eidsness said. “We were able to hit holes better as far as that stuff so running the ball I thought we did good. Protecting the quarterback I thought overall we were better. We were decent at Utah for a half then we were not very good. Nebraska we were too hit-and-miss at times we got better against that so I feel better about progress there."