Coach Dale Lennon
Oct. 14, 2013
By DeMario Phipps-Smith
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. SIU will host No. 1 North Dakota State for Homecoming at Saluki Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.
Q: How confident are you that you can shut down North Dakota State’s rushing attack?
“Every offense is different. I don’t think ‘shut down’ is the right way to describe it. What you want to do is slow them down. You want to get them into manageable downs where you have a defensive advantage. That’s the challenge with the Bison, and quarterback Brock Jensen is playing very well. His completion percentage is around 67 percent. That allows them to do some things on first down that makes it difficult on defenses because you have to play them pretty base. The key for us is to have some first down success and force them into some difficult down-and-distances.”
Q: Could you explain the facial hair, backwards visor and its connection to any superstitions you have?
“We were playing South Dakota State, and it was their homecoming game. The tradition is that men of South Dakota State don’t shave a week prior to that game. I figured that was 24th time I played against them so I could go ahead and do it. The players got a kick out of it when they found out and said ‘coach, put your cap on backwards too.’ They wanted me to have a little swagger when we got on the field. It got them all fired up. We’ve had some success with it, and we’ll do it again this week. It’s more about motivation than it is superstition but I’m saying that not to sound superstitious.”
Q: How do you feel about your passing game if you have to throw a little more against North Dakota?
Q: North Dakota State returns most of its starters, are they doing things similar to last year?
“They’ve had a lot of success, so they won’t be changing a lot, but they have added some variation. I think they’re doing a little more defensively than they have in the past. For them, the biggest challenge is to improve every week. That can be hard to do when you are consistently the top team.”
Q: Is there a danger of coming into the homecoming game overconfident?
“Not in the scenario we are in. Our backs are up against the wall. We are coming out fighting. We are coming out in survival mode. I don’t know how you can be overconfident when you are just trying to survive.”
Q: With Saluki Stadium being relatively new, do you feel like have a home field advantage?
“I wish our record was better at home. I would like to get the fans more involved in the game. We have homecoming week coming up and I’d love to have an atmosphere similar to what the Fargodome has. When the fans really get into the game, they can be a factor in making the opposing team be aware of silent cadences and snap counts. If we can get to that point, then we’ll feel like we have a home field advantage.”
Q: Why do you feel that your team is better with Malcolm Agnew rushing?
“Malcolm is a good running back. We have a good scheme for him, and we complement him with Tay Willis and Ken Malcolm—both of them aren’t too far behind. I don’t like to think of it as us having a No. 1 back. All three of those guys are critical for our success. A lot of credit has to go to the offensive line, which I think has vastly improved.”
Q: How good do you feel about special teams and punt coverage units?
“I have to feel good about it. NDSU's Ryan Smith—I remember him being pretty special as a high school player—beat my son’s team single-handedly. I don’t want that to happen to me so we have to do a good job covering. It’s all fundamental.”
Q: What kind of step as a program do you think you will take if you are able to beat the No. 1 team in the country?
“It’s the end of the season that will define where the team is. One game does not define a program. I’d like to think we are making good progress. A win would confirm the type of progress we have been making. At the same time, if we win on Saturday and lose the next four that is not good.”