Nov. 7, 2011
By Logan Lee
Southern Illinois hosts Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the BlackOut Cancer game.
Defensive Coordinator Bubba Schweigert
Q: Do you feel like getting to their quarterback is something you can have success in doing this week?
A: We try to design schemes that can get us to the quarterback every week. First of all, it starts with stopping the run, we need to do that. They're a good running team and they run the ball effectively, so we need to do that first to get them into second and long, third and long. Then we hope to pressure them, which I think is the best way to defend any good quarterback.
Q: What was the big take away defensively from Saturday?
A: We can't give up the big plays. We had four plays that were 200 yards of offense for them, and you just can't win football games doing that. I think our guys recovered somewhat in the second half and we put together a real good third quarter defense and had a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter. That's going to be the focus this week whether it's what we're calling or the technique, all of those things have to be looked at and we have to eliminate the big play from the offense.
Q: Do you know the status of James McFadden?
A: I don't know if he'll be available. He didn't make the trip to South Dakota. At this point we aren't counting on having him.
Q: Is it a concentration problem with us giving up the big plays?
Q: How would you evaluate LaVarus Williams' first time out as cornerback?
A: He was solid at this point. He's been out a long time and hadn't played for a while so he was a little rusty. There were some things with alignment and technique that he was a little rusty with, but overall we were happy with what we saw.
Q: How do you feel emotions will play into this game being the final home game of the season and being the last game for Coach Bob Spoo?
A: I would think for their coach being there for such a long time that their guys are really going to want to play hard for him and get this last game. I would hope our guys will match that intensity and match the emotions and even go beyond that and do it for four quarters. The one thing you have to be careful about when you build so much emotion during the week is that you're emotional for a short time, and you don't maintain it through the game. It's going to come down to execution and playing with a lot of intensity but it will play a part. We want to get this win with our last home game and it's Senior Day for us.
Q: What are your thoughts on the BlackOut Cancer game and the money that you've raised?
A: It's a special day. I don't think there will be anybody in the crowd that hasn't been affected by it. I lost my grandfather and father to cancer so it will be an emotional day. I think it's a great thing that Mike McElroy and our administration as well as the NCAA allowing us to do this. It's going to be a very neat event and it will be emotional for a number of people.
Q: Does it surprise you that this was Mike's brainchild to begin with?
A: No, and last year he had some time to think about it when he wasn't playing and had some extra time. I've coached him now for four years and nothing surprises me. He has a big heart and he's a fine young person who's going to do well in whatever he chooses to do in his life. We're really proud of him for doing this and thankful for all the people that have supported it. It's going to be a very worth-while event.
Q: Is there anything you can do to keep them from spreading you out this weekend?
A: With different formations you are going to be able to hit their quarterback and other formations you may not be able to do that, depending on how they use their personnel. There will be a little bit of a cat and mouse game going on throughout the game. When you look back to Saturday, we were better at pressuring the quarterback in the second half than we were the first, and they were better at scoring in the first half then we were. We have to be smart when we take our chances of going after the quarterback, and we have to look at what we're calling in different situations to help our guys defend better.
Q: You pride your unit for taking care of the run first and you have largely been able to keep some teams under 100 yards. How disappointing is it that you haven't been able to shut them down the other way?
A: The yards per rush last Saturday were 2.8, but if you remember, we gave up a big play late in the game when we needed the ball back. Those are the big plays that are the disappointing ones. When you're really good on defense, you eliminate explosive plays and you create turnovers. The last few weeks we've done a better job at creating turnovers, and that's helped our team. We put ourselves in position a couple of times last Saturday. That's our job on the defense, to create scoring opportunities for your team and limit the opponent's points.
Q: How do you feel your secondary matches up with their receivers?
A: This week we feel better about the matchups, last week they were a concern. They had three guys that were 6'3" or better, Moss was a real tough matchup for us especially when you get down closer to the goal line. You have to use your strengths to their weaknesses. We have to help our guys by putting them in better positions to make plays.
Offensive Coordinator Kalen DeBoer
Q: Do you feel like your team and their team are mirror images of each other?
A: It seems like it. If you look at the scores of the games they've played, they lost two games by one point and two games by seven, and we've been in every game we've played. I'm sure there are some heartbreaking losses in there just like we have had, and those are tough to overcome. Momentum I'm sure has been tough on their side to get back into it just like it has for us.
Q: Do you feel like you guys took a big step forward offensively this past weekend?
A: The wind played a factor in the game, but it was nice to be able to just run the ball. That's something we've really struggled with here in the second half of the season, so it was nice to be able to have a foundation to rely on to get some offensive yards. We struggled to throw a little bit, and there are a lot of variables that come into play there, but it was nice to get back on track and it seems like we're making progress. Even though Kory Faulkner's pass percentage was down, there are still a lot of learning moments that he's going through. The think I like about him is that he comes off the sideline, he looks you in the eye, and you can coach him. We continue to work with him, you enjoy coaching guys like that and seeing the progress he's made over the last couple of weeks is something that gives us a lot of optimism.
Q: Your wide receivers haven't been as of an effective part of your game plan as they were earlier in the season. How do you change that?
A: It has been a struggle. We've kind of switched modes a little bit with MyCole Pruitt being someone now who is just an excellent football player. I think our quarterbacks like going to him. We saw early in the season that there were a lot of opportunities that we missed to get the ball to him, and now they're looking to him a lot which is taking away from some of the throws the receivers had earlier in the season. They're working hard, I just think it's a matter of looking to them a little more often. There are times where we've had the opportunities, and on the other hand there are times that we've made mistakes. Not being able to communicate between the quarterback and receivers, especially on Saturday with the wind, where we wanted to take some shots down field and there were some mistakes that happened. That falls ultimately on me as a coach and it's something we need to get better at.
Q: How has MyCole Pruitt progressed over the course of the season?
A: As a football player, you can see that he's a competitor. With the snaps he had early, he was probably in the 30-40 snaps per game range and I think he played in every one this past Saturday, which was 81 snaps. That's asking a lot out of a guy who's blocking on the line of scrimmage and running a lot of vertical routes right now. The third play of the game we hit him for a big 35-yard gain. He's stretching the field vertically as well as everyone on our team right now. I'm excited that he has three years left in this program because he's a special player. He not only has athletic ability, but he understands where the openings are at on the field and how to set up defenders. He and Kory have built a connection over the last three weeks in particular. Early in the year, he was a little frustrated because he was open a lot and we just didn't see him and hitting a lot of the receivers on the same plays. Now he's grown into the role of being a go-to guy.
Q: Can you talk about the emotions involved in the game with your seniors?
A: We have a few seniors, especially up front with Bryan Boemer and David Pickard, who have been mainstays on the offense for quite some time here, so I think it will be emotional for them. The thing you challenge your guys to do is to play for those guys, to play for Cam Fuller or Shariff Harris and those guys that are done. We still have a young team, so we don't lose much on the offensive side. That's the challenge and the thing we want to do is to send them off with a victory in their last home game.
Q: What are your impressions of Artavious Dowdell?
A: They mix in different pressures where they can get to your quarterback, which is part of the challenge that we have. On the other hand, we know the teams that have pressured us are the ones that we've had more success throwing the ball against, because they give us bigger seams to find. A couple of weeks ago against Illinois State, that was where we found the most success when they brought the pressure, we picked it up and made plays down field. The teams that have sat back and dropped seven, it's hard for anyone to throw against that. We'll invite the pressure and challenge our opponents to bring it because the big plays will be made through the air.
Q: Has Jewel Hampton become the type of running back that you guys wanted?
A: He has. We went through a lull for a few games but you have to give our opponents some credit too. When you're playing teams like Northern Iowa and NDSU, who are two of the top three defenses in the country, they're making life pretty difficult to run the football even with just six guys in the box sometimes. They've done that against every opponent, not just us, so with the exception of those games, he's been what you want and he's made a lot of things happen on his own. He's run through some guys and punished some defenders along the way, I know he's knocked a few guys out this season and that's his style. That's nice to have because you want your running game to develop a personality, your philosophy begins with being physical and he gives you that running the football.
Q: What are your impressions on the Black Out Cancer game?
A: It's an amazing thing. I know the story has been told quite a bit, but I'm not sure that Mike would have ever imagined it would ever be what it is as far as the money that's been raised. I've seen a lot of fundraisers over the years being the head coach at another school, so you pay attention to what other schools are doing as far as community service-type projects, and this is as good as I've ever seen, as far as what it's going to bring into the community. It makes you proud to know that there's support like that in the community and that it was started by someone on our football team.
Q: You've dug some holes this season and have had to climb yourself out of them. How do you address your team about that?
A: That's been the case most of the season with us digging a hole early in the game and that's tough. Our offense is going to thrive when we're playing with a lead where you can run the ball and then the play-action opens up as the game goes along. When you get behind, you get in a whole different mindset and it's tough to stick with the run-game. That was the thing that we probably did the best this weekend, was that no matter what the score was, we tried to stay balanced. When we were at the wind, there was maybe a little bit more of an aggressive style, but we're down 14 in the fourth quarter going against the wind, we tried to stay within what we do and I think it still gave us a chance at the end. We just have to do a better job of starting out the game, the last two games we fumbled the ball on the first drive.
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