Oct. 17, 2011
By Logan Lee
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. Southern Illinois will travel to Northern Iowa for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday. The game will be broadcast locally on WSIU TV.
Q: Could part of the reason that UNI is so efficient on passing is the type of passes they use?
A: Well it is, their pass game is not a typical drop-back passing game where you need the drop-back protection. Most of their passing schemes are off the play-action where the quarterback is on the move. The other thing that he is very good at, is that if it is not there, that he can take off. The tough thing isn't always just defending the pass, it's also being able to grab on to the quarterback and to not let him hurt you with his feet. He has a good added dimension with that combination.
Q: How does Tirrell (Rennie) compare to other dual-threat quarterbacks you've faced?
A: He's the trigger of their offense. We haven't faced them yet, so it's tough to make that comparison, unless you're right up against them, but from our experience last year he is very elusive. He's tough to grab on to in the backfield, he has great speed, he can score from anywhere on the field, so he's that big-play threat for them. He has a good running back corps that compliments him, and his receivers have been making big catches. Plus, he's improved his passing game, and I think that's something that you really see as different from last year to this year. He's much more accurate with his throws.
Q: Does a win for you guys solve things for you?
A: Winning cures everything. It doesn't matter who you're playing but a win would be huge for us and make us feel good about what we're doing.
Q: How was the team after the game?
A: You never know what to expect when you address a team after a game like that, but I liked what I saw. We were disappointed in our performance on Saturday, but I think the determination look was in their eyes. With their meetings and watching the film, I think they saw what we saw as coaches. It's just a fine line between winning and losing and right now we just aren't doing enough to be on the right side of that line. That's what we have to keep plugging away at and eventually we'll get there.
A: You'd like to have the big play to just get the quick scores. If you don't have the big-play threat then you just have to play great defense. If we can do the field position game and give the opponent a long field to work with, that will always bode well for you, but you do want to have that ability to get a quick strike at some point in time.
Q: Why did you guys determine the defense struggled so much in the second half on Saturday?
A: Assignment sharp. A couple of the big plays that we gave up, the long 70-yard run, were just getting the right fits. If we're getting our right fits, that's probably a four or five-yard gain. It's the little things, nothing major. Even with our coverage, there were times that we were there for the big pass plays. We just have to play the ball better, and if we're not positioned to play the ball better, then we have to know what to do to disrupt the pass. Those things are correctable, and right now we aren't doing them and it's not helping us.
Q: Are you guys expecting them to stack the box again against the run?
A: I would think they would want to challenge us to throw the football, and I think that's what we're seeing across the board by most teams that we're playing. They're good enough defensively that I think they'll play their base defense and do what they do best. They'll be ready to adjust accordingly, but right now I don't think they're going to feel like they have to change up their defensive scheme. They'll be aware of what our strengths and weaknesses are, but they'll just play their defense.
Q: You have a lot of people on your team who were there for the win in 2009. Does that give you a lot of confidence?
A: We have confidence every week. You don't go into a game unless you expect to win. There are things that we're doing well that we feel good about that I think can be something that will help us get over the hump. Our guys love going to UNI because of the atmosphere, they love going to the UNI Dome. They'll have a big crowd and it's going to be noisy and hostile. That in itself is something that I think fires our guys up.
Q: How do you use the "underdog" role to your advantage in a game like this?
A: I don't know if you really have to build it up too much. We're the underdog going in as the 2-4 football team and we're playing number two team in the country. I think you mention that once and it should pretty much take hold.
Q: Can you talk about your impressions of Ben Boothby and their front four overall?
A: He's as good as there is. I think he is talented enough to where he could be playing on Sunday. It's fun to watch the film because he's good on one-on-one match ups, and if you give him a one-on-one match up he's going to hurt you. It's amazing how he handles the double teams and he's just a play maker. He's one of the strengths of their defense.
Q: How much tougher does it make it to run against that?
A: It makes it very tough. We have to be very assignment sharp. We have to be able to not be predictable. We have to package our run game in the fashion where we can be effective and not ask our guys to do something that they're not capable of doing. That's the challenge of putting a game plan together.
Q: Your front three and front seven have played very well this year, what has to happen to continue that this weekend?
A: Well, for us it's being assignment sharp, number one. Number two is we have to tackle. When we have the chance to bring someone down then we have to bring them down. It's a pretty simple formula for us and we're capable of both of those facets. We just have to do it on a consistent basis.
Q: Can you talk about your kickoff return? How close were you to breaking one of those open for a score?
A: We had one guy left, so that's about how close we were for each of them. We spent a lot of time working on the kickoff return and our guys believe in it which I think is the key. In fact, our special team players of the week was the kickoff return unit. We just felt that everybody on that unit did a good enough job to help Steve Strother have the type of game that he did on the return end.
Q: Do you expect UNI to kick out of bounds this weekend?
A: No. You never kick out of bounds because you get the ball at the 40, which is no different than getting the ball at midfield. Trust me, they're going to kick right at us.
Q: Did you ever get to talk to the YSU coach and ask him why they kept kicking to Strother?
A: They had a good kickoff unit. When they went up against Michigan State and some other good teams, they were able to kick it deep and cover. You would like to think your coverage unit is capable of doing that. I understand exactly why they kept kicking it.
Q: Can you talk about the type of runner that David Johnson is?
A: He's a good compliment to Carlos Anderson. They're different styles with Johnson being a little more of a long-strider and very smooth with his movement. It's one where he's moving faster than it looks. He has a great career in front of him. It was a good find for Northern Iowa. He kind of went under the radar with the big-time schools and UNI was on him the whole time. They did a great job in recruiting him.
Q: What kept George Danilkowicz out of the game Saturday? Was it something with a previous injury?
A: Yeah, it's just coming off of his knee.
Q: Was there any particular reason why Shariff Harris didn't dress Saturday?
A: It was disciplinary action. That's all I'll say. It has not been determined if he'll play this week.
Q: Will Mulku Kalokoh see more time?
A: Definitely a chance. He had a good week of practice last week, and we're hoping that we can get our run game to the level that we'd like to get it to. He has to be available to see the field.
Q: He's a little bit of a different style runner than the others, isn't he?
A: He's more of a long-strider, definitely faster than what it seems like he's moving out there. Very elusive, agile with the hips, he can break tackles with just a simple little shake. He's a quality back.
Q: What would you say their game is predicated on?
A: They get a lot of big plays because teams are overplaying the run or the option. South Dakota State is a perfect example. If you look at the statistics, SDSU won more of the statistical battles, but it was the big play that did them in. One was an 80 yard touchdown pass with a simple fake that the corner back bit on and the receiver was all by himself down the field. That is what a successful run game can do for you.