Oct. 31, 2011
By Tyler Wooten
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. Southern Illinois will travel to South Dakota State for 2 p.m. game on Saturday in Brookings.
Q: "Why do you feel like your defense has been so inconsistent?"
"Our team has been inconsistent from game-to-game. Going back, there's matchups. Certain offenses that give you a little more trouble against your defense, and there are certain offenses that we're very good against. It's not completely by surprise going into certain games, we're concerned about what we can do defensively or offensively. We're not quite as solid across the board that we need to be, and that's where you're getting some of the inconsistencies. One week you can be looking like the team that you wanna be, and the next week you're wondering where that team disappeared to. It's more by the design of what we're up against."
Q: "Are you surprised that so many of those struggles are in the secondary?"
"I'm not surprised. Again, we knew that there would be some matchup issues. The timing with Illinois State getting Marvon Sanders back when they did, we knew he was a playmaker. There are certain individuals we've come up against where we've had people in position to make plays but we just haven't made the plays, so that's a factor too, just having playmakers on the field. It hasn't always been schematically, it's been just making the play when we're in position to do it. If we can get better at that, naturally we're going to increase our success factor. Third downs against Illinois State when we were on defense, that was probably the most disappointing stat of the day. We gave up some third and longs when we had them pinned back, and they ended up getting a significant pass completion of 20-plus yards. Those are things we have to get better at."
Q: "What do you mean by 'matchup problems'?"
Q: "Is there any way to avoid that?"
"Well, you do some schemes. Anytime you do a scheme, you're taking something away from another component. Ideally, you would like to be able to play your base coverages and do what you do best, but when we do switch it up there are times when we're doing matchup zones. If you watched Terrell Wilson, who we think is our best cover guy, he'll play both sides and sometimes he'll even be on the slot receiver. It's just one of those things where you try to put your players in the best position to make plays, but at the same time you still have to defend the entire game, and it's just not as simple as taking one receiver out of the game to solve your problems."
Q: "How do you feel like you matchup this week? They have two receivers in particular, (Dale) Moss and (Aaron) Rollin."
"It's a concern. They're going to throw the football. If you look at the statistics, their offense has over 350 total yards a game, and you're looking at close to 300 of that coming through the air. They're going to challenge us at the secondary. Part of the challenge is with their schemes up front. We have to be able to give pressure. When we have an opportunity to take the quarterback down, we have to take him down. That was one of the other disappointing areas against Illinois State. There were times when we came through free and we just didn't make the play on the quarterback. There is a recognition there that you don't want to hang all of the blame on one position totally. It's a whole contribution here to get the job done."
Q: "And their quarterback isn't playing like a freshman right now..."
"He's playing very well, and he's getting better with each game. In fact, the first game he started was against Illinois State, and they were conservative with the gameplan, but he put up decent numbers. He had a few fumbled exchanges and the sort of stuff you have like that with your first game. But since then he's looking more and more like a seasoned veteran."
Q: "What made Kory (Faulkner) so successful in the game on Saturday?"
"He's progressing. He's getting more comfortable just being out there. He's getting better at making his reads, and I think we did a better job, too, of giving him a gameplan that he could execute and felt comfortable with. We gave him a lot of freedom to make checks at the line of scrimmage. We did have quite a few run-pass combos that was up to him to make that call as far as what we were going to do. For the most part he did a very good job of managing the game."
Q: "You guys really spread the ball around to a lot of different guys..."
"Well, again, you try to do what the defense will let you do. We knew we were going to be challenged in the run game, therefore, we wanted to do the next best thing, which was some high-percentage passes where you're just trying to utilize the whole field and that's what Kory was doing. The place where Kory stepped forward was throwing the deeper balls. We were more efficient with our downfield passes, which up until last week we were having trouble converting on. We feel good about our intermediate passing game, but we still have to take some shots. It was great to see David Lewis catch that deep ball. At that time in the game it cut the score down to one score. We need to see more of that. We need to see more of that type of production from our receivers."
Q: "Does South Dakota State spread you out in a similar way that Illinois State does?"
"It'll be similar, they'll have a three-receiver set. Every offense is similar: they don't want to hang their hat on just one facet. They're going to make you defend every component. South Dakota State can get into a two-back, I-formation. They don't do it a lot, they like it in short yardage or if they want to establish the run game, they will get into that set. They like to use two tight ends, which can give you a little more of a physical presence. But, they do have quality receivers that can catch the ball. I think the most impressive thing with South Dakota State is their ability to make big plays. You look at their numbers against Missouri State, Moss had an 80-yard reception that was just off a little play action fake. They do a pretty good job of getting big plays. They beat Youngstown State on a 75-yard pass."
Q: "Has it been more frustrating this season because you are losing by such close margins?"
"Losing is frustrating, period. The thing that we're not doing right now, and the best way I can explain it, is that when you're winning you can always look to one series or one play that made a difference and allowed you to win that ball game. Where we're at right now, we're on the other side of that coin. We can look at one series or one play and identify if we had only been able to make the play at this point in time our chances of winning would have been significant, and that's what's frustrating. We're just on the wrong side of the line right now, and we just have to find a way to cross the line. We have to make that play, and I think once that happens, good things are right around the corner, so you can't get too discouraged, frustration is what describes it. At the same time you have to keep working the way we have been."
Q: "What was your reaction to what Coach Spack said after the game? I don't think you would look at this as a compliment, but he said that you were the best 2-5 football team he's ever seen."
"It's not a compliment. I don't even like thinking like that. We're not happy with where we're at and we need to get better."
Q: "Logistically, is this one of the toughest places to play? How do you reduce the problems you could have playing there?"
"You start by not saying it's the most difficult place you have to play at. They're all challenging. Sometimes the perception of going up north and playing in the Dakotas is a little daunting to some people. Fortunately, I'm from there. I even used to look forward to going down to Brookings and play there because that usually meant the weather would be warmer than where I was coming from. It's a great atmosphere, it's old-school football. That's what we're going to be talking about this week, that it's old-school football. It could be wet out there, it could be dirty out there, but that's why you play the game. Look forward to it, embrace it, have fun with it."
Q: "The forecast is for rain right now -- do you feel like you can run against them?"
"Even against Illinois State we wanted to establish the run. Every game you want to establish the run. Sometimes you may be establishing it a little bit differently, but you have to be able to run the football to be able to give yourself a true chance to control the tempo. Against Illinois State the thing I wasn't happy with was that we got off to a bad start, we were down 14-0, therefore we had to change a little bit of how we played. I would have liked for us to be able to run more with the football and control the tempo a little more than we did. We were able to throw, the pass was working and that's where we ended up, going more with the pass than we had probably originally planned."
Q: "What kind of concerns do you have with your offensive line?"
"Everyone that is playing has started. The addition of Tanner Crum has been a bonus, he has really progressed well. He's not a rookie anymore. He's had some starting experience against a couple of the best defensive tackles in the league, if not the country, playing against (UNI's Ben) Boothby. Tanner might not have been ready for that assignment, but that was the assignment that he had. Playing against (Eric) Brunner this past weekend, another top defensive lineman. I'm feeling good about our preparedness up front. George (Danilkowicz) has started a lot of football games for us, you still got (Bryan) Boemer and (David) Pickard, and Richard Wilson is a sophomore, so our front five is pretty good. And then you look, we have some quality guys backing up, with (Scott) Becker being a senior at the tackle spot. (Matthew) Van Dril will also be available to back up at center and at both guard positions, and he's a senior. At the beginning of the season we talked about our depth on the offensive line, and now it's paying off for us. I still don't think we're at risk, we just aren't at full strength."
Q: "Do you expect to use Tanner (Crum) two ways again?"
"Tanner will go in any time we're in our goal line package. That is when he goes in on the defensive side. Bryan Boemer used to do that for us. Now Tanner is the young pup, so he gets that assignment."
Q: "What do you think they do well defensively?"
"They play tough. This is a gutsy football team. They're going to hit you, they play old-school football, there's nothing fancy about it. They run to the ball, they like hitting you, and they're aggressive. They do everything you want your defense to do as a defensive coordinator, they play with a very aggressive style."
Q: "You said last week that we could have seen A.J. Hill at any point in the game. With Kory's performance last week has that changed at all?"
"A.J. has to be ready. Right now we have two quarterbacks, and A.J. is that number two, and that number two has to be ready every single play -- it can happen that fast. He's very valuable to the team and his role hasn't diminished. Kory took a step forward and our confidence with Kory right now is good, but that doesn't mean A.J. is out of the picture. He's very much part of the picture."