CARBONDALE -- Southern Illinois head football coach Nick Hill met with the media on Monday morning to preview this week's home game versus Illinois State.
The Salukis (2-3, 0-1) have played four of their first five games on the road, but now have two-straight home games against nationally ranked conference rivals, beginning with the No. 13-ranked Redbirds (3-2, 0-1) at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
We're excited about getting back home. Our first four out of five games have been on the road, we've spent a lot of time on the road, so it will be good to get back home. BlackOut Cancer week -- our team takes a lot of pride in raising money and playing for those people we'll represent out there on the field.
Recapping the South Dakota State game
Looking back at South Dakota State after watching the tape, we had some opportunities we didn't capitalize on and we didn't play our best football. I thought it was one of those games -- sometimes it's going to be a grind. When you look back at it offensively, it was a pretty efficient first half, there weren't a lot of snaps. In the second half we couldn't get anything going there in the third quarter. Going into the fourth quarter, down 15-10, we have to find a way to get some momentum going, whether it's a big play or a big drive. I felt like our defense played well enough to win the game. There's some things we'd like to clean up and get back to be a more dominant defense, but I thought we caused some problems. We got (12) tackles for loss, we sacked the quarterback, but ultimately we didn't go up there and get the job done. They're a good football team and we have more good football teams on our schedule.
On Illinois State
They're a really good defensive football team that's going to play good, sound physical football. Up front, they've got some guys in their front seven that are big, they're twitchy, they're athletic. Offensively, they have a really skilled quarterback. They've lost three guys at wide receiver to injury. They have the best running back probably in FCS football that's done it for a long time and is as good as you're going to see all season. They're going to run the football, they're going to control the game, they're going to play good defense, keep things in front of you and let their front seven go to work. They'll play some off-coverage and make you keep snapping it. They're just a physical football team. That's how Coach (Brock) Spack's teams have always been.
Everybody's key is you have to stop 25. Their quarterback has a really strong arm, made plays against us last year and they're a play-action type team. Any time you're getting extra guys in the box to stop the run game, you're going to have opportunities in the play-action game. They do a good job with that. Sometimes, you're in more of man situation on the edges when you want to get more guys in the box to stop the run.
On the explosive plays that were the difference at South Dakota State
We can't give up the explosive plays for touchdowns. The long run was really just a play they've been running, we got out of a gap, peaked in the wrong gap, and when you're not sound and playing against a good team and good players, they can hurt you. The (58-yard) pass play, we have two guys there and don't make a play, and (Cade Johnson) makes a play and it ends up being six points. Lack of explosive plays on offense -- 16 yards in the pass game, 12 in the run game -- we only had five of them combined in the entire game. You want to be around 12-to-15. Our goal is one out of every seven is an explosive play and we weren't close to doing that. We're confident in the guys we have and looking to get back on track this week.
On the discrepancy between having 12 tackles for loss, and allowing the big play
They're not going to line up and do the same thing. They have good coaches and have seen us on film. If we do something different in the beginning of the game, then they make corrections. Every play is a play of its own. You have to be disciplined. The one play, they brought the guy on a fake reverse, the guys got their eyes wrong and they were able to hit. Malik (Haynes), I thought, played a really good game, probably his best game of the season. He's playing at a higher level and made some individual plays where he just beat his man. Some of them were on some pressures and some of them were on guys making plays.
On the benefits of playing so many road games already
The leadership on this team is the best since I've been here, as far as who they are and what they want to accomplish. Like I've said before, going on the road, other than not getting to play in front of your home fans, you really have less distractions. From Friday morning until the game, you're in a controlled environment, you're in a hotel together, everything's planned out, guys can get some rest, your meeting and dinners are together. I don't mind being on the road -- you'd like to be playing in front of your home fans -- but you get to know each other, you come together. That's part of every season has a story of its own.
Do you remind the team about the loss to Illinois State last year?
No. Last year was about as rough of a game as we've had around here. The year before was probably the exact opposite. We have a different team, they have a different team and so we'll line up and play. Obviously, that wasn't a good feeling up there in Bloomington last year. That's the best thing about college football, the best thing about last week, the next time you can get that bad taste out of your mouth is six days later and we'll get that opportunity on Saturday.
On Karé Lyles play at South Dakota State
I think Karé has done a really good job. We all didn't do a good job in the (SDSU) game, coaches included. There's a couple times people weren't open and he takes a sack. It's a collective unit that we didn't play well on offense, but there's no loss of confidence. We're going to put together the best plan we can, we have good players, and we'll play good on offense this season. Karé's been doing a good job. I like Karé's demeanor. He made a heckuva play before the half to score that touchdown -- it was a broken play, he gets out of the pocket, finds Nigel (Kilby) throws the ball well. When we got off that bus, some of the (wind) gusts were over 30 miles per hour, it's not really a quarterback's dream to get out and start chucking the ball around, but Karé spins the ball well, he throws a tight spiral and has a strong arm, he's been making good decisions.