Nov. 14, 2011
By Logan Lee
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. Southern Illinois will travel to Indiana State for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday in the season finale.
Q: What do you have to do to slow down Shakir Bell?
A: Gang tackle. When he gets into space is when he's very dangerous, so we have to make sure that when we do have him corralled, we don't let him bounce to the outside. He reminds me of Larry Warner with the way he ran and Larry would get his biggest runs sometimes just bouncing it to the outside when there was nothing in the middle and making a big play out of nothing. That's what Bell does for Indiana State, he can make a big play out of nothing and we just have to make sure that we get as many people to the point of attack that we possibly can.
Q: How does the role of spoiler for you guys play into this week?
A: We're playing for more than to spoil their playoff chances, we're playing to try and get the program going in the right direction. There are a lot of things that we're playing for that has nothing to do with being the spoiler, and when I address the team tomorrow I don't want us focused on going down there just to spoil their chances of making the playoffs. We want to win this ball game because we need to win this ball game, we need to set the direction of the program and there is a lot of cause for us to go out there and play our best game of the season on Saturday.
Q: How big was getting the win on Saturday going forward, especially for this week?
A: It was huge. You just have to get that feel of winning, and when you've gone through a stretch like we went through, you forget what that feel is like. You start doubting yourself, confidence starts to disappear and just a simple win can definitely give you the confidence to go out again and believe that we've been close and now it's our time to follow through and make the plays.
A: They can be 50/50 but they like the run. If they get the run going then they're a more difficult team to stop. Against North Dakota State, they threw the ball the most during the season and they threw it 39 times. They don't want to be in that category. They want to be able to run at you and use the pass to complement the offensive schemes. The challenge for us will be slowing down the run.
Q: How much has their offensive line factored into Bell's success and how much of it is him being able to make the big play?
A: Well it all starts up front, and they have three offensive linemen back, too, that have played a lot and then the two additions they had are good, quality linemen. One of their strengths is that they don't have many weaknesses up front, they're just a well-balanced football team at pretty much every single position and their offensive line can definitely move you.
Q: Do you feel like you have to run away from Ben Obaseki?
A: We have to do what we do, too. With the run game, a lot of it is determined from where you are on the field, so we're going to be aware of him but they have other quality linemen also. We can't completely game plan around one person but we need to know where he's at.
Q: Do you expect to use Shariff Harris like you did last Saturday?
A: Hopefully, we'll be in that situation where we're running the ball enough that we're getting all of the running backs involved. Last Saturday, you saw a glimpse of how we'd like to have it where all the running backs are in the game plan and if that happens this Saturday, that will probably be a good indicator for us.
Q: Is it important to see what AJ Hill is capable of in your last game of the season?
A: The most important thing for us is to get a win and that's what we're going to prepare for the best that we possibly can. We would like to get AJ on the field at some point in time to see what he is capable of doing. That was a strong consideration in Saturday's game, too, but as the flow of the game sometime dictates, it is a little more challenging doing that at the quarterback position. The last thing you want to do when you're substituting quarterbacks in and out is to lose momentum, so if you feel like you have something going that is working, you really want to be careful about doing something that can take that momentum away from you. AJ's been preparing well, he expects to get in there at any point in time and he needs to be ready to do that, but at the same time we can't make any promises that will happen.
Q: You guys have been averaging about 30 points a game the last three games. Do you feel like the offense is at the point that you guys had envisioned at the beginning of the season?
A: We're more confident in even calling offensive plays. We're doing more with our offense than we had been doing earlier on. Part of that has been Kory's (Faulkner) progression, he's getting more confident in what he's seeing and we're getting more confident in what he's capable of doing. Another part of it is that our players are stepping up and playing a little bit better. I like some of the things that I'm seeing out of the backfield. I definitely like some things that we're starting to see from the receiving corps. MyCole Pruitt has really stepped forward and has done some things for us offensively, that prior to this year ,we probably would have had five receptions on a year for a tight end where now that's common for one game. It's finding our identity of things we do well and we're starting to know what we do best.
Q: Do you feel that their turnovers have hurt them more than most teams and do you think you have an opportunity there this weekend?
A: We'll look at that. Their quarterback has done a good job of taking care of the ball. The stat you look at there is that he's had eight interceptions but he's thrown 16 touchdown passes, so he has pretty good productivity when he's throwing the football. They have turned the ball over a few times on the fumble. We've had 19 fumbles but we've only lost six of them, while they've lost a majority of theirs. That's the same in every game, we want to make sure that we emphasize wrapping up and then the second guy works on taking the ball out.
Q: Can you talk about Jewel Hampton's season?
A: Even coming into the season we weren't sure what to expect from Jewel. I think that in itself made things a little more challenging. We weren't sure of the durability of what he'd be able to do on a consistent basis for us. I think his adjustment to our play calling and how we run the football has been good, so I think you've seen a steady growth process with Jewel and that he's become more confident in what we're wanting him to do. He's become more of a threat for us out of the backfield as a receiver, he's been that bonus player for us that will hopefully bode well for us in the future.
Q: Does it help to go on the road for the last game and take a business approach to the game?
A: I have no problem going on the road. You have a more controlled environment for the team, so even within the team I don't think there is any anxiety going to another stadium. I think it will be an exciting Saturday. I hope there's a lot of people and a lot of atmosphere at the stadium, our guys like that and that's a fun thing about college football is when you have a full stadium to play in front of. We're excited, it will be an opportunity for us and we have something we have to do.