Doeren Brings More MAC Flavor to ACC

ncsu_logoIn the 2013 Orange Bowl, Florida State followed up its 2013 ACC Championship with a convincing victory over Northern Illinois.  Although the Huskies lost 31-10 that night, they were the first team from the Mid-American Conference to receive a bid to a BCS bowl.  They were also coached that night by new head coach Rod Carey.

That is because, roughly a month prior, the head coach who had led Northern Illinois to that Orange Bowl appearance had a new job. Dave Doeren, who coached NIU to two MAC championships in as many seasons, will take over as the new head coach of the NC State Wolfpack this season, replacing Tom O’Brien.

Leading Northern Illinois to a 23-4 record during his first two seasons as a college football head coach made Doeren a popular target during the carousel of hired and fired coaches during the offseason.  The Huskies’ 2011 MAC championship was the program’s first since 1983.  That team was loaded with seniors, especially on offense, forcing Doeren to retool for 2012.

As it turns out, that was no issue for the 41-year-old coach. Despite new starters at quarterback, running back, and throughout the offensive line, the Huskies were ninth in the nation in scoring and 15th in yards per game.  Northern Illinois went 11-1 in the regular season, with the lone loss being an 18-17 opening week defeat at the hands of Iowa.  After defeating 19th-ranked Kent State in the MAC Championship, NIU earned a berth in the Orange Bowl and improved to 15th in the Coaches’ Poll.

The MAC, coincidentally, has become a breeding ground of sorts for ACC coaching.  Doeren will be one of four head coaches of ACC teams in 2013 who had past tenure as the leader of a MAC football team, joining Jim Grobe, Al Golden, and the newly appointed Steve Addazio.

Grobe was the first of the four coaches to make the move from the MAC to the ACC. A two-year starter at Virginia in his playing days, Grobe accepted the head coaching position at Ohio after ten years as linebackers coach at the Air Force Academy.  Grobe’s first season at Ohio was a struggle, as the Bobcats posted a 2-8-1 record. However, he posted a winning record in MAC play for each of the next five seasons, finishing his time there with a 33-33-1 overall record and 27-20-1 mark against MAC opponents.

Grobe joined Wake Forest in the 2001 season, replacing Jim Caldwell after eight years that included only 12 ACC wins and one winning season.  The Demon Deacons have been to four bowl games under Grobe, including the 2006 Orange Bowl after an ACC Championship win over Georgia Tech.  While the program has experienced highs and lows under Grobe, its worst seasons have been better than some of Caldwell’s best efforts.

Golden made the move to Miami after five seasons as the head coach of the Temple Owls.  After a 1-11 record as an independent program in his first season, Golden built up the Owls to a MAC title contender.  In 2009, Temple finished tied atop the East division with a 7-1 conference record, but missed out on a MAC Championship appearance due to the loss coming against Ohio, which also finished at 7-1.  Nonetheless, the Owls participated in the EagleBank Bowl, the program’s first bowl berth since the 1979 Garden State Bowl. Golden’s Temple teams were 20-12 against MAC opponents before he joined the Hurricanes.

Addazio was Golden’s successor at Temple.  The Owls had another successful season, finishing 2011 with a 9-4 record (5-3 MAC) and a win in that year’s EagleBank bowl (the first bowl win for Temple since the aforementioned 1979 Garden State Bowl).  Addazio coached the team again in 2012, the program’s first in the Big East.  They struggled against the stiffer competition, posting a 4-7 (2-5 Big East) mark, but it was enough to earn Addazio consideration to replace Frank Spaziani as Boston College’s head coach.

Thus, Doeren joins a list of ACC coaches with MAC experience, but he is certainly the most decorated of them all despite just two years under his belt.  Despite being a defensive specialist throughout 15 years as an assistant coach, including work as defensive coordinator for Kansas and Wisconsin from 2005 to 2010, it is his prolific offenses in DeKalb that has caught everyone’s attention.  While the current personnel at NC State may not fit his spread-option attack that had scoreboards reeling, Doeren hopes that his aggressive approach and NC State’s dedication to returning to national prominence can be a potent combination.

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