SIU has won nine in a row against Indiana State.
Sept. 24, 2012
By Tyler Wooten
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. Southern Illinois will look to extend its winning streak to three games as it hosts Indiana State at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Saluki Stadium. A complete video of the press conference is available on Salukis All-Access.
Q: How did South Dakota State stop (Indiana State running back Shakir) Bell?
"South Dakota State is very solid on defense. Any time that you overcompensate, you're going to give something else up. South Dakota State had a very blue-collar gameplan, nothing fancy. They just lined up and they were very aggressive up front. In that matchup, South Dakota State's defensive line gave Indiana State's offensive line some issues. A lot of times there was penetration, they had a lot of people at the point of attack, they didn't give up any weaknesses in the secondary by overcompensating, it was just a pretty solid defensive gameplan by South Dakota State."
Q: You had some success defensively up front against Indiana State last year. Do you feel like you can replicate that this weekend?
"We have to play our game. I think it's important that you don't try to be someone that you're not. Just because one team has had some success doing something, you don't want to be a copycat and try to do exactly what they do because that's not your personality. We like going up against teams with two tight ends, we like going up against teams with a '21' personnel -- which is a two backs, two tight ends set. That's kind of what this defense has been designed through the years to be strong against. With Bell, what they're looking for is just that one play to bust it. (Running back Zach) Zenner for South Dakota State, he had an impressive day but he had 150 yards on two carries, so his stats all of a sudden look pretty impressive, where Indiana State did a pretty good job defending him most of the game. In fact, South Dakota State had seven three-and-outs during the course of the game. They were punting the ball quite a bit. It was just a couple big plays that got Indiana State in trouble and then playing catch-up ball."
Q: How have you seen Shakir Bell take his game to another level this year from last season?
"He was pretty impressive last year. I can't say he's at another level, I'd say he's at the same level. He's just capable of making the big play, and that is a key for their offense, the big-play threat. If you're over-aggressive on Bell, the pass will get you. Looking at the film against some of the other teams, that's what got the other teams in trouble. Just some simple play-action, next thing you know there's a receiver running wide-open down the middle of the field, and you've just given up a long touchdown pass. You have to be very disciplined. You have to be very good at tackling. You have to get as many people to the ball carrier as possible and all those other things you talk about on defense. You have to do those against a quality running back like Bell."
Q: Have you seen (Indiana State) get Bell more involved in its pass game this year?
"If you're looking at his receptions, I think he's fourth in total receptions. It's just little swing passes out of the backfield, but they're just trying to get him out in open space and let him go to work. They do a good job working the screen game. They're well-coached, they know how to take advantage of things that defenses will do to take him out."
Q: What have you determined were the biggest hangups offensively on Saturday?
"Offensively, overall we needed to be a little more aggressive. We got to a point where -- and this happens with teams, where you come off a big week, and in the Missouri State game we got off to a quick start, and then all of a sudden, before you know it, we had about three series where we're struggling, and you go into halftime and you just get into a bad rhythm, and that was probably more than anything else what we were trying to overcome. The rhythm of the offense wasn't there, and when we did do something, then we would have a penalty negate it, and those are things you have to learn how to overcome, and we weren't able to overcome that at the level that we would have liked. The positive was that we didn't panic. We didn't try to force something that wasn't there. We didn't turn the football over. We didn't put our defense in bad situations. There are times when even though you may struggle, you have to be smart in how you play the game offensively. And if we take anything positive out of that, that's what we'll take out of it?"
Q: When you say 'aggressive,' do you mean in the play calling or gameplan?
"More aggressive in the execution of the plays, and when you talk about bad rhythm, that's when it becomes very difficult as a coach to even call the plays because you're trying to find the right call, but if you don't have a rhythm that you're going with, you're kind of grab-bagging it. That's where it's important once you can get a couple first downs and get a feel for the game against what you're doing well, it becomes a lot easier to call the game at that point in time. It was a combination of we couldn't quite find our gel and we struggled."
Q: You used MyCole (Pruitt) as more of a blocking back last week. Why was that and will that change this weekend?
"It was part of the package, and with MyCole, we do not want teams being able to just key on him. If he's in the backfield as a blocking back from time-to-time, they'll probably be thinking it's pass, and then we're able to run. We're aware of the fact that teams are going to be aware of MyCole Pruitt, so we have to make sure we use him smart. There will be times where we'll use him as a wideout, and other times we'll play him as a straight tight end, and there's other times where we can put him in the backfield and have him motion around. We're not losing anything by doing that with him. I think he's a good enough athlete to do all those things, it just makes him more diversified and more valuable to the offense."
Q: Now that you have two wins, do you feel your team has gained any confidence?
"That's still a work in progress. I think this week is another big challenge. Last week Indiana State was a top-25 team. They have a lot of top players who have been getting a lot of publicity. We have to see how we stack up. It's a work in progress that we're working on, but we're making progress."
Q: How did the offensive line grade-out this week?
"It wasn't great. If I had to give them a letter grade, which I don't do very often, I don't give out D's, but I give out C-minuses. I thought we were a little below-average in what the expectation was."
Q: Do you feel more confident in your defensive gameplan against a team like Indiana State since you know what's coming from them offensively?
"Watching them and looking at their stats is misleading because they look 50-50 run to pass, but when they've needed to throw they throw the ball. When they need to run, they have the ability to run the ball at will. Probably the best game for us to watch is their game with Indiana University where they really had a good combination of both run and pass and really kept Indiana on their heels just as far as trying to defend them. That's the team that we have to be ready to defend."
Q: You and (Indiana State) Coach (Trent) Miles came into the league around the same time. What about him has impressed you in turning around that team?
"Well Coach Miles, number one, is a great person. You meet him and you immediately like him. He did it the right way. He was very patient with his turnaround. He has to make some changes in culture at Indiana State and he did that to a point now where his players expect to win. They're good citizens. They're good representatives of the University -- I sound like I'm recruiting for Indiana State right now so I don't want to say too much more. Coach Miles just did everything the right way, so he deserves a lot of credit."
Q: What kind of a quarterback is (Indiana State quarterback Mike) Perish?
"He's capable of running. He doesn't like to; he'd rather throw the ball so he'll hang in the pocket. They've given up some sacks, and part of that is due to the fact that he likes to hang in the pocket as long as he possibly can. But, I've also seen him break out of the pocket and out-run defensive players to the sideline. He's a good athlete, but he looks to throw first."
Q: Is it time to give Chris Adams a shot at place kicker?
Q: How much of a load is (Indiana State defensive lineman Ben) Obaseki?
"He's good. He's a playmaker. You have to be aware of what side of the line he's lined up at. He's just one of those talented players that's been playing in the league for a long time. He's seen the best that this league has put out there. He's played up against it and done well against it. He's just a guy that we need to be aware of."
Q: The defense stepped up its game in the red zone against Missouri State with a few big stops compared to previous weeks. Can you talk about the maturation of the red zone defense?
"I think we're doing well with the red zone. We were forcing field goals, especially if you look at Saturday's game against Missouri State. We made the stop, roughed the kicker, gave them the ball again and then made the stop on a fourth-and-three, and that's pretty good. I don't know if a year ago we would have been able to do that, so I think we're getting better. That's the confidence you're looking for, when your backs are up against the wall that you know your players can step up and make a stop. From my perspective, defense is where it starts. If you're playing good defense, you're going to give yourself a shot in every game."