Overheard at the dog park: What the Huskies are saying before facing Western Michigan

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 Tuesday, Hammock and freshmen safety Devin Lafayette and wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph took questions from the media ahead of the team's game Saturday at Western Michigan (3-0).

Here are the highlights:

With a week and a half between the Huskies' 31-25 loss to Ball State and the game against the Broncos, Hammock said the team has had time to reflect on its 0-3 start

"You win or you learn, and we're doing some learning about ourselves right now," Hammock said. "We're learning what we're made of. Ball State was a good football team. We showed some progress during that game."

With Kyle Pugh out for the first half due to a targeting penalty last week, NIU is slated to start seven freshman, six true freshman. One Lafayette talked about learning on-the-job with a slew of other players.

"Honestly it's fun being able to grow in players that are in the same area as you," Lafayette said. "Most of us being freshmen, we're able to go out there and have fun, playing with our teammates."

Rudolph was asked what role experienced receivers like Cole Tucker and Tyrice Richie have had in teaching him.

"Not even just Cole and Richie, I feel like the whole wide receiver crew, they help me a lot," Rudolph said. "And not just me. They help all the younger guys. They know it's not about them. If we're trying to win as a team you have to help out the little cats."

Quarterback Ross Bowers is averaging 6.4 yards per pass this year. Hammock said the team is continuing to work on the deep game.

"When you're throwing the deep ball a lot of things are in play," Hammock said. "No. 1 the timing is big. No. 2 it's the wide receiver winning at the top of the route. And I think that's where we have to be more consistent, winning at the top of the route. But we're going to take more shots. We're going to give them more opportunities. Good things happen when you take shots down the field and we're going to continue to do so."

Bowers played all but one snap last game. Hammock has talked about getting his quarterbacks game action, especially freshman Dustin Fletcher, who Hammock said last week the team is bringing back from an injury.

"It's the flow of the game," Hammock said. "Obviously there are some things you would like to call we didn't get called. It's no different than some pass plays or running plays we didn't get a chance to call. Hopefully we get it dialed up this week and get some more guys involved in the gameplan."

Rudolph already has made an impact in the return game, gaining more return yards in his debut than the team did all of last year.

"I really truly don't be worried about the 11 people coming down to get me just because I have 10 blockers in front of me," Rudolph said. "I feel like if we're doing what we have to do, I'll just be left with the kicker. I feel like I got real confidence in my blockers so I just follow them."

When does Rudolph think he is to his first kick return for a touchdown?

"I'm just one block away," Rudolph said. "One block away."

Eddie Carifio

Has been the sports editor in DeKalb since 2014.