Coach Dale Lennon
Oct. 29, 2012
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. After two straight weeks on the road, Southern Illinois (5-4, 4-2) will be back home to face No. 21/25 South Dakota State (6-2, 4-1) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Saluki Stadium. A complete video of the press conference is available on Salukis All-Access.
Q: With a lot at stake for both teams this weekend, do you expect this game to have a playoff feel?
"Yeah, they all have it. And this is for real. This is a do-or-die game for us. It's not for them, but it is for us. If we want to have a chance to be in the playoffs, we have to win this football game. It's simple math. There's no getting around it. Our players know it. Our coaches know it. South Dakota State knows it. It's game 10, and we're playing for something pretty significant. We are excited about the challenge, and we're excited to get this week going.
Q: Does anything about your team's approach need to change these next two games?
"I like the approach that we've had. I think our guys have kept it as business-like as possible. I don't want emotions to be too high or too low, especially coming off this past week. I'm concerned that we may be down. That's human nature, but come Tuesday, we have to make sure we are as focused as we've ever been on the upcoming opponent. That's the message that will be given, and we have to make sure we're living it as well."
Q: South Dakota State's quarterback has thrown 13 interceptions. Is there a way you can take advantage of that?
"Part of that is the youth factor. He gets hot and cold. There's times where you can get pressure and force a couple throws that you can take advantage of. Actually, that's kind of our game, so we're going to work on that. But he's also very confident. A lot of times he's made some extremely impressive throws because of his confidence. He comes from a high school program that ran a spread offense that threw just about every down. So he's an accomplished quarterback as far as throwing the football. I know if it were up to him, they'd be in a spread offense throwing the ball every down, but they have a good running back that they incorporate. That's what makes it so difficult to defend. They have good balance and can get you with the run or the pass."
Well, it's the next guy up. You can't even think about it. You can't dwell about it. If somebody can't go, somebody else has to step up and pick up the level of play. At the same time, that will be the challenge to the entire team. Everyone has to pick up their level of play. It's that time of the season. No one is at 100 percent. I've given that talk to the team several times. That's just football. We lost that 100 percent label after game one. You get banged up, and you play through the game. You just have to pick yourself up and get to the next game.
Q: How do you feel about getting an at large bid if you get to seven wins?
"Again, we don't have complete control of our own destiny. Seven is kind of the magic number. It will kind of depend on who we're sitting at seven with. What I do like is that we have had some very good conference wins against teams who will have some playoff consideration. That should help us. I know those wins do help us with head-to-head competition, and they also do a lot because they are quality wins. We've had some teams that we've defeated that are playoff caliber teams. Naturally that sits well for us. There are a lot of factors that go into playoff selection. To be honest with you, I'm not even going to talk about playoffs with the team because it all comes down to if we don't win this weekend, then we'll only be playing for pride.
Q: What has to change in your running game against a good South Dakota State run defense?
"We have to find the right combination. We have to make their defense defend the entire field. By doing that (SDSU) cant just key on one individual or one concept to make us one-dimensional. So that's going to be important for us to be successful."
Q: Can you explain the success you have had blocking punts and kicks this season?
"It ends up being a belief. Once you've done it, you just know that you can. That's something our guys are extremely confident in. We didn't block a punt this weekend, but we did block a field goal and a PAT. Both were extremely significant and both gave us opportunities to have a chance to win the ball game. So that's an attitude that's within our guys right now. We spend a lot of time working on that. One of the things we do pre-practice on one the days during the week is have a block party. Anyone who is on any type of special teams is working on blocking kicks and punts. They go to the block party and have four different stations. They go from station to station working on technique of blocking kicks. So we spend time working on it. We have always done it, we're just now starting to see success with it."
Q: Is Clayton Melville still hurt or did Victor Craven beat him to earn the starting position at left tackle?
"Right now that would be Victor taking advantage of the opportunity and stepping up when Clayton was hurt. The, when Clayton came back later that week, we thought we would just go with Victor because he did have a good week of preparation and got the confidence in the coaches. He played a very good game against Youngstown, and this past week he played a very good game against North Dakota State. So he's earned the spot at this point in time."
Q: Is there a difference in the way you tell a team to tackle a power runner compared a more speedy type runner?
"In tackling you always preach the same thing, but you know players like the big hit. When you have a running back like SDSU's Zach Zenner, you cant go for the knock down shot. You just have to come and hit him as hard as you can to knock him down. His balance is too good, and his strength is too good. When you get a running back like this you have to wrap up and then wait on reinforcements. Gang tackling is always big. You have to stop that initial charge because what he's good at is getting more yards after second effort. That's where you have to have as many people at the point of attack as you possibly can get, and then you have to be wrapped up, or otherwise he will break tackles."