Northern Illinois Coach Rod Carey is still getting used to being in the limelight. He went from offensive coordinator to head coach overnight, while his mid-major team vaulted beyond its players wildest dreams to land in a BCS bowl. But Carey is catching on quickly, doing a smooth job of answering the media's questions in this pre-Christmas presser.
On what to expect from Florida State:
"They're good. Understatement, probably, but it's also an overstatement. They're just really good. They're long. They're athletic. They're sound in what they do. Long, athletic, good, well-coached, play hard, do all of those things you expect and ACC champion to do. It's a good challenge, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and I know our players are, too."
On keys to winning the game:
"We need to play well. Guys, when you are going into a game like this, it is like any big game to us. You have to create turnovers. We have to take care of the ball. We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be able to stop the run. That's as old as football is. When you look at the matchups of the BCS teams versus to non-BCS teams, you look at the run games on both sides of the ball. Whatever team can establish the run and whatever team can stop the run, usually that leads to turnovers. That leads to points and, all of a sudden, that eventually leads to the outcome.
"The keys are going to be up front on both sides. I've heard it the numbers. Someone said their O-line outweighs our D-line and all that stuff. All that is good and well, but some of the O-lines in our conference outweigh our D-line, too, and we played pretty good against those O-lines. That's the key."
On how difficult it will be to run the football:
"We have to do that all the time anyways. We aren't 310 pounds or 315 pounds up front. We have a bunch of young guys playing who are not inexperienced anymore. They are just young. They might be a little light, so we have to do that anyways. That's part of what we normally do. We have to move things around and create angles and mismatches. We look for it all. We always use the term `Where's Waldo' and find him on defense. Let me tell you, Florida State doesn't have Waldo. They have a bunch of good football players. That's kind of how we go about things normally, so we'll do that again."
On FSU being the fastest team NIU has faced all year:
"No doubt, they are. I don't need to expand on that. They're fast."
"We talked about that the other day with our team. One of our biggest strengths is that, no matter what has happened to us, we've had adversity. It's not like we've rolled through 12 straight games. We've had adversity and we've always dealt with it, stayed calm. We have a real even keel, this team, and that's because of our seniors and how they go about things. If we talked about managing your emotions and this, absolutely we have. We are going to continue to talk about that. Everything we've thrown at this team this year, they have responded to. I have no reason to believe they won't respond to this."
On getting off to a good start as the underdog:
"Is that important? No. That I think is something for everybody who is watching. We're going to have their attention and they are going to have our attention. Would we want to get off to a good start? Yes. Every game."
On what he would like the country to know about some of these other players on NIU:
"Going to the Jordan Lynch thing, if you talk to him behind the scenes, I think he is a little bit uncomfortable with all of it. That's the kind of guy he is. It has been good for NIU to get us out there, not only our community, but our school. We have a lot of really good players on this team. From Martel Moore to Perez Ashford, all of our seniors are playing their best football. That's what makes this team well, is that you have seniors playing their best. Tyrone Clark, Sean Progar, Alan Baxter, all these guys, and I could go on and on and name them all. If you just look through the roster and you can highlight a senior, that's one of our best players."
On play-calling responsibilities:
"I'm going to call it this game. I'm going to get out there and do it. We're trying to make it the least amount of change for this team as possible. That was the biggest thing going in, keeping the staff for this game. I'm coaching the O-line, being the OC. I guess I'll be on the sideline and doing some head coaching things, too. If the change is me, that's better than having 105 players changing."
On the smoothness of the transition of coaching staffs:
"For me, no. For them, yes. For them, it's been really smooth. Go out and watch practice. Our guys know how to work. It's awesome. Our guys know how to work and they go at it. They just kind of fit back in. We snapped back in yesterday and it was awesome to see."
On how much the team progressed since the Iowa game [NIU’s only loss]:
"We're a lot different because we went on a 12-game winning streak after that. That's the first way we're different. We didn't know what we had going into that game. I'm not making excuses. Don't take that the wrong way. Iowa beat us that day. Make no mistake about it. You know what? They're a good football team, they're well-coached. Coach Ferentz has been there for a long time and has a good program. We didn't know what we had. We didn't know who we were, we didn't know our identity, and that's no one's fault. We had a lot of new faces, and a lot of new teams. How have we changed since then? We've learned about ourselves. The only way you learn about yourselves is to play a game. You can only practice so long."
On rules and keeping the team focused:
"Coach [Jimbo] Fisher gave me some advice when we were down at the Orange Bowl (press conference). He said, `Know where they are at.' I said, `Oh, great.' We're going to have some structured events, but this is a reward. That is the other part of this. We're going to let them be kids, but they know they are representing themselves and the spotlight is on and the spotlight is bigger than it's been for us. We've been talking about it nonstop.
"We wanted this. That's what our kids have gone after. To think that they would minimize this or use this or not be responsible with this, I think would be short-sighted on my part. They're going to be responsible. I'm going to help them be responsible, but they are going to enjoy it, too."
On support from Dave Doeren who left to coach N.C. State:
"A ton. We couldn't have kept this staff together the way we have if Dave and I hadn't been in constant communication. I give a lot of credit to him on this and I've talked to him about this team. Guys, he was our head coach this year. He led this team. He set tones. He did those things, in all, really well. We're 12-1. So yeah, have I leaned on him and I'm going to lean on him a little more in the next two weeks."
On having so much off time to game plan:
"You have to be careful with that. You're 12-1 doing what you've been doing. And every week you make tweaks as the season goes along. So yeah, we've done some things for this game. I'm the worst at it. You can go in the offensive staff room and ask those guys. I want to do this, that, and the other thing. Coach Cole, Tripodi, Uremovich, and Jackson say whoa, whoa, whoa. They're there pumping the brakes on me. One thing that can be bad is as a coach, you get too much time, you get that pen in your hand, you draw too many pictures. It's bad. So you have to pump your brakes. There will be other things that we do that are different."
On the players' reactions to being in a BCS game:
"How we're discussing it behind closed doors, I'll leave that behind closed doors. But their reaction to being in a BCS bowl is they're excited, really excited, and they should be. My kind of take on how the outside has kind of perceived us, it's gone from really negative right away, to kind of turned positive, that feel-good story. I think it's all been great because they all talk about NIU. I think that's a great thing. I think people are responding that way. I think they see it too, what a good thing for NIU."
On representing the entire Mid-American Conference in the BCS:
"Yes, we do. We feel like we're representing the entire MAC. Obviously NIU, and it's a great university we have, one that stands apart from athletics as a fine institution. We're just the front porch. So we represent all of those things and we're willing to do it. We're excited to do it."
On whether the MAC is getting its due respect:
"They're probably not. I've been asked that question and gone back and forth on that. What's the level of respect that's acceptable? That's what I ask. Everyone is going to naturally flock to the BCS conferences, and they have this, they have that. Where are we setting the bar for it? Are we setting the bar as a BCS conference? We're not there, as far as level of respect. You have to earn that. This is a big step for our conference and NIU."