DeKALB – For the Northern Illinois University football team, the time for taking things for granted is over.
After a 1-4 start, the Huskies are turning inward after another week of mistakes and self-miscues to address the issues that have resulted in consecutive one-possession losses.
According to coach Thomas Hammock, that begins with addressing the aspects of the game that may seem self-evident.
“Just the details that you can’t take things for granted with young men,” Hammock said. “Like hey, we covered this, we went over this multiple times. It’s got to be weekly. Those are the things I look in the mirror and say, OK, that’s what we need to do better.’”
Redshirt senior tight end Daniel Crawford is coming off another productive performance with a team-high five receptions for 85 yards in the Ball State loss.
He’s one of the seniors who has emphasized to teammates the need to look inward to correct the issues plaguing the Huskies.
“The whole team really has to look and see what they can do specifically to get better,” Crawford said. “At this point it’s not a scheme thing, it’s not an effort thing – it’s individual. What can we do better to close out games and just finish things out and be better to win?”
Crawford said it was a matter of getting both the mind and body right when it comes to taking accountability after the Ball State loss.
“For one instance, some guys have took accountability and realize ‘I didn’t watch as much film as I should have.’ So [Tuesday] morning, [I] come in, and I just see a couple guys getting some extra film work in,” Crawford said. “People are coming into the weight room more, getting some flexibility work, getting some agility work, just trying to get loosened up and just trying, basically, [to] get their bodies more prepared for these brutal [Mid-American Conference] games.”
Fixing the more visible issues and inconsistencies begins with a special teams unit that gave the Huskies poor field position on consecutive chances in the destructive third quarter of Saturday’s 27-20 loss to Ball State.
“We had two drives in the third quarter where we started at the 2-yard line and the 4-yard line,” Hammock said. “The second one, the ball in the end zone, we keep the ball in the end zone. That’s the rule. On the sideline ... they were kicking with the wind, it was rainy, all those situations, just say, ‘Hey keep the ball in the end zone or fair-catch it.’ Take the decision-making out of the player’s hands.”
Backup redshirt safety Marshé Terry reemphasized to teammates the need to carry joy into this week of practice.
“Just make sure they have a smile on their face, first and foremost,” Terry said. “Don’t want to take the joy out of anything just because it’s not going your way. You want to make sure you’re still having fun. We’ve been playing this game since we were very young, and at the end of the day it is a game, but everybody wants to win. It’s hard to win when you’re not having fun.”
But Terry also agreed with linebacker Jordan Cole that the time to work and rise or fall to adversity is now for the Huskies.
“You either step up to the test or fade away. That’s pretty much it.” Cole said.