Defense dominates SIU football scrimmage

By Gus Bode

The SIU football team completed its second preseason scrimmage of 2008 Thursday and similar to the rest of training camp, defense took center stage.

The Saluki defense limited its offensive counterpart to just one touchdown and a few field goals during a 15-series scrimmage at McAndrew Stadium.

Quarterback Joe Allaria connected with wide receiver Beau Hoffman on a 5-yard slant pass for the offense’s only touchdown.

Advertisement

Other than that, the defense stole the show.

Head coach Dale Lennon’s new 3-4 defensive scheme did a solid job in stopping the rushing game. It also wreaked havoc for SIU quarterbacks all scrimmage.

Outside linebacker James Cloud said a strong defense is a requirement for any championship caliber team, no matter if the offense scores zero or 100 points.

Cloud, who had a chip on his shoulder that the offense scored even once, said the defense needs to play its best every game in order to give the team a chance to win.

“All camp we talked about stopping the run first and that is our main goal as a team and as a defense is to stop the run,” he said.

“We want to make opposing offenses one-dimensional, and that is what we did here today.”

The Saluki defense forced the offense to throw the ball more than perhaps Lennon would have liked by creating several third down and long situations.

Advertisement

The offense, however, responded by converting on many of those plays, which Lennon said should rarely be the case.

“The defense was giving up a few first downs where I’d rather not give up first downs, but they weren’t letting points up on the board so they were accomplishing their job, so it is a little bend-but-don’t-break type thing,” he said. “It was a give-and-take type scrimmage with plusses and minuses, so it is hard to get too excited about either side of the ball.”

As on par with the rest of preseason practices, Lennon gave little insight as to who his starting quarterback would be. Lennon said the decision, for all intents and purposes down to Allaria and Chris Dieker, probably won’t be made until the few days leading up to SIU’s season opener against Hampton University Sept. 6.

Dieker seemingly had the better scrimmage Thursday, although Lennon said one day would not determine the Salukis’ next hurler.

But while Dieker completed more passes for more yards, Allaria put the points on the board, which further clouded any speculation as to who Lennon might pick.

“It’s a give-and-take with them right now,” Lennon said. “Chris had a solid day today and Joe missed some opportunities, but I’m sure Joe will step up the next day. We have to make a decision here soon, but from start to finish, we will have to evaluate who has been better throughout camp. One day is not going to sway one thing one way.”

Lennon didn’t rule out the possibility of playing both quarterbacks in certain situations throughout the season. Lennon said he has encountered the situation before but would be reluctant to try it here.

“I’m not a fan of it, but I’m willing to explore anything if the situation warrants it,” he said. “I’d rather not rotate them in, but we do have two quarterbacks that are capable. But if for some reason the game plan warranted it, bringing somebody in on a certain situation, I wouldn’t be opposed to it.”

Lennon said a highlight of the day could have been found in sophomore kicker Kyle Dougherty, who put three of four field goal attempts through the uprights. Dougherty was particularly impressive considering he connected from 37, 42 and a 47 yards away, while missing right on a 46-yard attempt.

“He has a strong leg, and we just need him to work on his consistency for us a little bit,” Lennon said. “Whenever we cross the 40-yard line ,we will have a chance to get some points on the board, so he is a nice weapon to have.”

Brian Feldt can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 256 or [email protected]

Advertisement