SIU will look to even its season record with a win at Illinois State.
Oct. 1, 2012
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. Southern Illinois (2-3, 1-1) will be on the road to face Illinois State (5-0, 2-0) Saturday at 1 p.m. A complete video of the press conference is available on Salukis All-Access.
Q: On rushing plays when you need a power back, if (Mika'il) McCall can't go, how would you handle that situation?
"Ray Agnew also takes reps. He's been playing our fullback position, and we haven't used him because we haven't had a need to use him in the past with Shariff (Harris), Jewel Hampton and now Mika'il. Ray has practiced and taken some reps at the tailback position just in case that need would ever arise. But, at the same time you do have, not a power back situation, but Steve Strother has played a lot of football for us. Mulku (Kalokoh) has played a lot of football for us. Another back that is available for us is LaSteven McKinney. In fact, he came here as a running back, so that compliments the depth. With Mika'il, if he's not available, that definitely does hurt the north-south game."
Q: How do you get out of the offensive funk you're in?
"Make plays. Bottom line, we just have to make some plays here and there. It's a momentum thing. Once we start getting some success, good things can happen, but right now we have to make plays. We've struggled at doing that, and as long as we continue to struggle it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for the entire team. And for the coaches it makes calling the game very difficult. But at the same time, you just have to keep swinging away. The expression that we’re using is ‘keep playing.’ Keep playing. Something’s going to pop, and hopefully from there we can get it going.
“It’s like any situation. You have five protecting, but you do have some one-on-one matchups. What gave us some issues was on the perimeter with our tackle matchups, especially with (Indiana State DE Ben) Obaseki. He gave us some difficulties, and then as the game progressed, we had to switch up some blocking schemes to try to get us a little more help to the perimeter on the protection. There are several different ways you can do that. By also doing that, you might be committing an extra guy to the protection, which again is something you would like to avoid if possible, but they did a good job getting pressure on us, and we didn’t have the best of days up front. That’s where we need to get better.”
Q: What makes the defensive front of Illinois State different that the others that you’ve seen already?
“They have some good athletes. I don’t think there’s anything that separates them from anybody. I just think that they have some very good talent. Harris, Palmer and Underwood are very talented, and they run around well. We need to be able to help our offensive line too. Doing some things with some misdirection, getting things moving around in the backfield with some quicker throws. That all has to be a part of trying to help the offensive line perform well too.”
Q: With the offensive line this week, will you focus on matchups or shuffle guys around?
“Right now you don’t want to do too much shuffling of personnel. Naturally we’re going to look, are we as strong at every position as we can be, and if there’s a matchup that might be a little bit of a concern, we’ll address that right away. I’m not going to go into the specifics of that, but we’re not going to be flip-flopping every other play and tipping our hat that way. We just have to get things solidified up front and feel good about the guys who are up front doing the work for us.”
Q: What does Kory Faulkner need to do to get better?
“Confidence is a big thing with Kory, and with confidence everyone has to pick up their level of play too. That was the message to the team, to the offense yesterday. It’s not that we’re asking them to all of a sudden become great. We just need them to get better, and just a small level of improvement is going to help us so if everyone can pick up their level of play, that’s going to make the overall effort that much easier to obtain. There’s a frustration right now that does exist. It’s something that when you struggle to move the football like we did the last two weeks, you start losing confidence. We have to find things that we’re confident to do. Once we find those, Kory’s game is going to get better. Our offensive line is going to get better. Our running game is going to get stronger. Hopefully we can get our receivers in involved in how we want to play the game. It’s really one of those things that once you get the momentum going, hopefully you can sustain that.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge in facing Illinois State’s offense?
“On our defense, it’s basically going to be that we need to find a way to slow them down. One of the best ways to slow them down is offensively for us to stay on the field. If we have our defense out on the field for an extended period of time, that’s going to wear us down. This could be a game where time of possession is very key. We’re capable of doing things offensively. It’s been frustrating the last two weeks, but we can move the football. We can execute a game plan. We just need to go out and do it. That’s the message that we need to get across to the team and the confidence that we have to build this week. “
Q: Do you think you were aggressive enough on Saturday?
“I think if you look at our first quarter, that’s what we were looking to do. We came out and really executed an efficient offensive game plan. We came out and attacked. Then in the second quarter, for whatever reason, we just didn’t have it. We had a bad series, and then they had a drive that was 10 plays and consumed a lot of time. Then we came out with another three-and-out, and all of a sudden we’re looking at the end of the half. In the second quarter, we just didn’t get out on the field like we would’ve liked to offensively, and the third quarter was a quarter of three-and-outs on both sides so all of a sudden we’re looking at the fourth quarter, and we haven’t done much offensively. Sometimes the games present themselves like that. The last two weeks, the games that we were in, they were defensive battles. Neither offense was doing what they wanted to do or what they were capable of doing. It wasn’t until one side made a mistake with a penalty or interception on our end, and suddenly it broke, and it broke against us. Sometimes there are games where you’re in a defensive battle, and there are other times when you are in a shootout and there’s no explanation why you can’t stop a team defensively, but both offenses are going up and down the field. That’s the game of football.
Q: "Is Illinois State more of a finesse team or are you expecting more of a physical game?"
"They can do both. Their strength is definitely their passing game with (Matt) Brown, and they have good receivers. They'll take their shots deep on you. They've been able to really have a consistent run game with it. What they like to do is they want to dictate the tempo. They want to dictate the pace as far as how the game is going to develop. Now, the University of South Dakota did a very good job of fighting back and keeping it close, and they had a pretty good shot at getting a win out of that battle last week so there's some things there that we see that are encouraging to us also."
Q: Illinois State has some new faces on the offensive line. What are they doing well right now?
"A couple are transfers coming in, and they're pretty solid up front. They're a physical offensive line. They have some decent size. Naturally, there's a continuity that's developing there. I think with each game that they play they're getting more and more confident. The thing that Matt Brown does a very good job of doing, he really buys a lot of time back in the pocket. He's very patient, and when there is some pressure he's very good at eluding that pressure and spending time in the backfield moving around. He's a good compliment to that O-line."
Q: How important is it for you to sustain drives to where you can open up the playbook?
"That's football. If we don't, we're in trouble. We have to be able to move the ball offensively, and we have to be able to keep our defense off the field. We have to be able to exchange field position -- it's not always about scoring. You look at last Saturday night in the first half of the third quarter. The field position was in our favor. We had some great field position and we were setting ourselves up for success eventually. Unfortunately, the one punt that went 66 yards ended up putting us back inside our own 30, and that reversed the field position and they got the upper hand. After that, they were set up for success. It's not always about putting points on the board. When you're in certain games it's about sustaining that field position, and that's something you always have to be aware of."
Q: ISU has 8 interceptions on the season how will that affect your game plan and taking shots down the field?
“You have to look at the games they were in, in the EIU game, EIU ran 110 plays that game. They've had a lot of balls in the air. I think the stat you look at is INT's per attempts. But they are athletic. They can make plays. They had a pick six against South Dakota. They had another interception where they set up a score. Defensively they are a good compliment to our offense. They give them good position. They set them up, and that's the thing that's most impressive.”
Q: You said Saturday that the defense got worn out throughout the game. How do you avoid that Saturday?
“It's as much of a mental thing as a physical thing. You cant let frustration enter in. We have to number one, put last week behind us and number two, keep playing your position and doing your job, believe in the fact that good things will happen and just be ready for those opportunities that come. One expression we always talk about, what's the most important play? The answer is the next play. You have to have that mentality every single step.”
Q: South Dakota had some success against Illinois St. Do you take any of that and put it in your game plan?
“It’s not that you'll implement it in your game plan, but it does show you that there are areas you can attack and situations you can put yourself into to have a chance for success. Big plays were extremely important for USD. That tells you that maybe you have to take a few more shots.”
Q: Do you feel like you have done a good enough job making in-game adjustments the last couple games?
“It depends on which game. We won one and lost the other. We did well in the game we won and probably didn't do a good enough job in the game we lost. Sometimes when you make a game adjustment, it’s the worst decision you could make because you might have done something that completely takes you out of position. And there are others times you're kicking yourself because you didn't change. The time we missed the field goal I was kicking myself. It's fourth-and-2. We should have went for it. We should have been more aggressive with our offense early on, but I wasn't. Those are always things you think about afterwards.”
Q: Will the winner of the conference go 8-0?
“As it looks right now, it would be very difficult. If you do, you're a very good team, and that would look very good for the playoffs for that team.”