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Overheard at the dog park: What Huskies are saying prior to NIU's game Wednesday at Ball State

Northern Illinois head coach Thomas Hammock watches his team during their game against Central Michigan Wednesday night in Huskie Stadium at NIU in DeKalb.
Northern Illinois head coach Thomas Hammock watches his team during their game against Central Michigan Wednesday night in Huskie Stadium at NIU in DeKalb.

Welcome to Overheard at the Dog Park, a look at what NIU coach Thomas Hammock and players are saying at the team's weekly news conference.

On Friday, Hammock and defensive lineman Michael Kennedy took questions from the media ahead of the team's game Wednesday at Ball State.

Here are the highlights:

The offense managed just 244 yards in a 40-10 loss to Central Michigan on Wednesday and didn't score a touchdown until the closing seconds. Against Buffalo in a 49-30 loss to start the year, the Huskies gained 397 yards but committed five turnovers, three returned for scores. Hammock said a simpler playbook may be coming.

"There may be some things that are simpler," Hammock said. "I've had a chance to think about why we can't play better on offense, and I think sometimes what happened is we had the quarantine, we did a lot of film study on different opponents, different schemes, and maybe we had too much in. We're going to pare some things down and give our kids a chance to play fast and physical."

NIU has been outscored 38-0 in the third quarter this year and outgained 479-134.

"First and foremost I'm going to call it the first, second, fourth and fifth quarters," Hammock said. "We're going to just eliminate the third quarter. We certainly have to come out and treat it like it's the opening part of the game. I don't know what happened, what's the disconnect, but we have to be able to hold on to the football, protect the ball then make some plays offensively."

Hammock talks a lot about winning the battle in the trenches. How does he feel the offensive line has been doing with that so far this year?

"We have to continue to find creative ways to run the football and create seams for the backs," Hammock said. "We have to change the line of scrimmage. In the passing game, I think they've done a good job the first two weeks. There's been some good defensive ends known to rush the quarterback, they've held their own. In the Central Michigan game, I thought they strained a lot more to keep those guys away from Ross so he could have a clean pocket."

Ball State came into DeKalb last year and snapped a 10-game winning streak in the series for the Huskies, to reclaim the Bronze Stalk for the first time since 2008.

"It's personal," Kennedy said. "Before we lost the trophy last year we had it for 10 years. The players are taking it real personal and we all want that trophy back. So we're going into this week with an intense mindset."

What getting the Stalk would mean to Hammock - besides it meaning a win.

"It gives our players something," Hammock said. "They're fighting for something, the game means something, and we want them to reap the rewards of their hard work."

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