Football

Doeren leads NC State in 1st season after successful tenure with Northern Illinois

Photo Courtesy of NC State Communications

NC State coach Dave Doeren guided Northern Illinois to two bowl appearances before departing to coach the Wolfpack.

Northern Illinois’ training camp hit a rough spot. The 2012 Huskies suffered through a couple of tough practices, and the players were sure another was on the way.

But head coach Dave Doeren had a more personable approach to his team’s struggles.

He scaled back the regimen and took the Huskies out to see a movie.

“Some coaches would just keep pushing and pushing,” NIU wide receiver Matt Williams said. “At that time, everyone really wanted to play for him. That just really stood out to me that he would be there for us when we needed him.”

The relationship was twofold. Together, Doeren and his 2012 Huskies accelerated to unprecedented heights for the program and the Mid-American Conference. With its second consecutive MAC championship, NIU made the first Bowl Championship Series appearance in both school and conference history.

The Huskies’ historic success brought Doeren new opportunities, and he left NIU before the historic Orange Bowl appearance. He opted for North Carolina State’s (3-2, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) head coaching position, which earns four times his annual NIU salary.

“I felt like I was ready to be in this conference,” Doeren said during the ACC coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday. “I’ve seen a lot of different kind of teams out there and played against the ACC in bowl games at different stops.”

No. 16 Northern Illinois lost to No. 13 Florida State by three touchdowns in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day, but the result doesn’t change how the Huskies reflect on their season.

“I wish it would’ve ended a little bit better, but it was a great season,” NIU offensive lineman Jared Volk said. “We had a lot of fun. It was a lot of work but we kept on pushing through.”

Doeren came to NIU before the start of the 2011 season after serving on Wisconsin’s coaching staff for five years, including three as defensive coordinator. He previously was an assistant coach at Kansas, Montana, Southern California and Drake, where he also played tight end.

Right away, the Huskies knew their new head coach meant business.

“Everyone respected him,” Williams said. “He’s a great man and a great coach who didn’t really take any crap from anyone.”

In the 2011 season, Doeren’s first-ever as a head coach, the Huskies cruised to an 11-3 record and the program’s first MAC championship since 1983. In the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Arkansas State, NIU erased a 13-0 first-quarter deficit and won by 18 points.

And the Huskies went right back at it a year later.

After dropping the 2012 season opener by a single point to Iowa, NIU rode an 11-game winning streak to a MAC championship matchup with Kent State on Nov. 30. Once again, the Huskies found themselves trailing by double digits early in a high-pressure game. Once again, Northern Illinois fought back.

In a double-overtime instant classic, Doeren and the Huskies came away with a 44-37 win for their second consecutive MAC title and nation-best 12th straight victory.

“He’s a motivator. He’s a player’s coach,” Volk said. “He’s going to work you hard. He expects a lot from us and you just want to work hard for him every single time, because you don’t want to let him down.”

But after the five-hour bus ride from Detroit’s Ford Field back to DeKalb, Ill., N.C. State director of athletics Debbie Yow was there, waiting to offer Doeren the chance to lead the Wolfpack.

“I had a great job,” Doeren told reporters after being introduced as N.C. State’s head coach. “I wasn’t going to leave for a place that wasn’t special and I felt that way about N.C. State.”

By the afternoon of Dec. 2, Doeren was preparing the Wolfpack for its impending bowl game against Vanderbilt. Doeren’s departure forced NIU to promote offensive coordinator Rod Carey to head coach the same day.

Carey took over a Huskies team that was overmatched by the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl. Some could see the timeliness of Doeren’s decision as abandonment, but the Huskies don’t feel insulted — some still even keep in touch with their former head coach, Volk said.

In two years at NIU, Doeren left a mark. He went 23-4 and brought the Huskies two MAC titles, as well as a level of success that the conference — let alone the program — had never achieved before.

“He made good strides for us,” Volk said. “He helped get the program be where it is today. We still have a lot of respect here for Coach Doeren.

“We’re not upset at all. He earned it.”

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