Coach Lennon and the Salukis are fresh off an upset road win over a top 10 opponent at Illinois State.
Oct. 8, 2012
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. Southern Illinois (3-3, 2-1) will face Northern Iowa (1-4, 0-2) Saturday at 2 p.m. at Saluki Stadium. It will be homecoming for SIU. A complete video of the press conference is available on Salukis All-Access.
Q: Can you tell us about Tyler Williamson's performance Saturday.
"He was recruited by Bowling Green and transferred to a junior college. He was a quarterback out of high school and playing safety at the JC level. We recruited him at the outside linebacker, and he still learning defense. He has carried over his quarterback traits as far as being a student of the game. He spends lots of time going over film and preparing himself for game situations. It's nice to see a young man who has worked hard get to contribute and get the opportunity to succeed to the level he did on Saturday. He was well prepared for that football game and that opportunity that presented itself. He has a couple years in front of him so hopefully he will continue to get better and make plays for us."
Q: What's the danger in facing a 1-4 football team?
"That's something that the media looks at; we don't. It's Northern Iowa. They could be 5-0. It doesn't matter. It's going to be a game our guys are excited to play. Nobody is looking past them. Records and stats mean nothing to us in our preparation for this game."
Q: What about UNI freshman quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen is so impressive?
"His maturity and awareness of pocket presence and ability to make quick reads. He has a quick release. He makes throws you wouldn't expect a freshman to make. He might give you an opportunity now and then for a pick, but he has faith in his receivers to make the play, and he puts the ball in the area."
"As a team the most positive thing is there is never a sense of panic. We have been in to some defensive battles now, and our guys understand how that feels. There was no frustration on the sidelines. We had limited success offensively, but it was a very determined and focused group of players who played a very good team game."
Q: What do you really like about your team right now at the midseason point?
"We are still developing. Our guys believe that the best football is in front of them, and there is a unity within the group that's sincere. They want to get better as a team, and they are working hard to do it. They want to get better and take that next step. That is good to have considering the ups and downs on the season."
Q: You had three big plays Saturday, but how do you get more production out of your offense on an every down basis?
"You just keep running the play. You never know when the big play is going to present itself. You have to be in position for the defense to make a mistake. Most offensive plays are designed for limited success. You just want to get six, seven, eight yards here and there. You have to stay patient, and then when opportunity presents itself, you want to be able to break a big play. That's the nature of offensive football."
Q: What has to happen to turn possessions into turnovers?
"You can't count on turnovers to be there when you're coaching. It's the emphasis on trying to create turnovers, how you tackle, getting to the ball. You have to be ready for turnovers to occur. It's the same with interceptions and doing interception drills, but the reality is you have to be ready to play straight up and execute a game plan to win without the turnover benefit."
Q: What kind of challenges does the homecoming game present?
"Well there are pluses and minuses with it. I told the team yesterday that we are a pretty good road team. I like to have the team away from all of the things that can be a distraction in a young man's college life. That's part of our challenge this week, to eliminate and manage the distractions as they present themselves. Once they leave the building you have no control. I think they will do a good job managing it, but that's always a consideration."
Q: Were you surprised by the defensive battles and do you expect them again Saturday?
"I wont say surprised. I know we have good defenses in the league. You have to be ready for any type of game. It could be a shootout. You don't know what to expect going into the game and what could happen. I don't know how a game presents itself turning into a shootout. One week you have a tough week getting a first down. The next you have a team putting up 40 points. What's the reason? I'm not sure, but you have to predict it. We want to execute our gameplan, and we think we have a pretty good defense so we just have to see how we stack up."
Q: If the game turns into a shoot out are you comfortable in the offensive to keep up?
"It depends on your definition of a shootout. If we're putting up the points and they are playing catch up or are they putting up points and we're playing catch up? Depends on how that direction of the game goes. If we are having the success, well, we will be pretty confident, but if we play catch up ball that's a different scenario.
Q: Did you feel in control of the Illinois State game?
"Well it was back-and-forth. The blocked punt was huge. Anytime you block a kick for a score, your chances of winning that game is significantly higher. When that play happened, we felt good about our chances."
Q: Is there a concern about your offense becoming predictable?
"Well, I don't think we are. If you watch film from before to the past weekend we have changes and variables within formations. There were different people running plays this past week. We used lots of motion and misdirection and window dressing to mislead the plays. Formation-wise we switched that up. It's not as predictable as far as what fans may think with the same plays week to week."
Q: With UNI's special teams being so solid, is that something you have to prepare for more?
"Their kicking game and field positions are always key. They have a good kicker. We have a good kicker. That will be a battle in itself. The whole special team battle is significant and doesn't get the coverage it probably deserves. We are well aware of it as are they."
Q: There was a point in the Illinois State game where there were a lot of high snaps. Were you able to determine the issue there?
"That's why we put Eric (Bergman) in at center as we were trying to get it corrected and could not get it corrected."
Q: Will Eric start this weekend?
"We have not decided on that yet. We are still game planning and aren't to personnel decisions, but this is something Tanner (Crum) has struggled with before. It's like being a pitcher in baseball. Tanner was struggling with high snaps, which made it difficult for Kory (Faulkner). We had zone read concepts and we were not able to do that, and that's a concern of something we need to get better at."
Q: Are you going to use three running backs?
"We have been using them all a fair amount. (Mika'il) McCall being banged up a bit, Steven (Strother) was our player of the game offensively and did a good job carrying a load for us there. So all three need to be ready to go."
Q: Is there an advantage to give Strother or McCall 15-20 carries if they're on a roll or do you like the diversity?
"It's good to have diversity. If you talk to any running back, you're not going to want to leave the game. If it's the tailback, he wants 36 carries, but at the same time I'm not the tailback. I'm the coach, and I want all three running back to be healthy throughout the season.
Q: are you anticipating some long drives defensively this weekend?
"Well that's the nature. They are a physical football team with size. They have a good run game. They use a quick pass game. That's kind of their personality. If you look at possessions, you might only get two in a quarter so you have to take advantage of what you can. With Eastern Illinois you may get many possessions but with Northern Iowa you have limited possessions where you only get six or seven."
Q: Did North Dakota State have a pressure game on UNI's quarterback?
"No it's good defense that mixes it up. You can't rely on pressure alone, and we have done a good job this year. We've been able to incorporate more base defense with three man rushes, but at the same time we can turn up the heat and bring more pressure. That's what North Dakota State does. They do a good job at mixing up coverage schemes and pressure concepts."
Q: Injuries for them have been big this season. Is this a good time to use the tempo offense more?
"They had an off week so they will be coming in 100 percent. I saw a quote about them dealing injuries but the starting lineup I see is the same from the first day of season so I am anticipating the are healthy and rested up."
Q: Illinois State Coach Brock Spack said his team has been living on the edge. Do you feel like your team was living on the edge after these past two wins?
We are 3-3. We are not living on the edge but fighting for survival. We have to fight for the opportunity to be alive that next week. Their situation was in battles that could have easily went the other way. His guys were cutting it close. That's his opinion of what happened last week."
Q: Would you consider playing two FBS teams in on year like UNI has this year?
"You look at Northern Iowa and Missouri State. It puts you at a huge disadvantage during the season. Missouri State is a good football team. They are battling and will battle. It does take its toll on you. There's a physical toll and emotional toll that anytime you have a loss, it takes a little bit out of you, and a win adds a lot to you. The more losses, the harder it is to rally."
Q: If you win, Northern Iowa has no chance at making the playoffs. Is that a motivation you will bring to the team?
"It's a must win for them and a must win for us. That's the reality of it. It's Game 7 of the season for us and has significance to it if we want to feel we have responsibilities next week. Plus you put the factor in that its Northern Iowa so we want to clear the table and keep the focus on us against them and not have all the other side effects."
Q: Any updates on Paul McIntosh?
"Right now it looks doubtful. I can `t make a statement on it because I haven't spoken to Paul, but I don't see him returning in the near future and the near future is getting closer to the end of the season."
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