Dome not so sweet dome

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

The Saluki football team’s final two away games of the season are in domed stadiums. 

SIU lost to South Dakota 34-31 at the DakotaDome on Nov. 7 and plays Northern Iowa at 4 p.m. Saturday at the UNI-Dome. 

When the team practiced in Saluki Stadium before playing South Dakota and Northern Iowa, it played loud music and artificial crowd noise to replicate the amplified volume of playing a football game indoors. 

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Coach Dale Lennon has a background in dome games, as he coached for nine years at North Dakota before coming to SIU. 

“It’s all about your attitude going into the game,” he said. “If you make it a big deal it’s going to be. The teams that came out there and just enjoyed the atmosphere were the teams that did the best.” 

Lennon said the student section often tries to get to the opposing team. 

“When I saw players getting involved with fans, I knew they weren’t going to play very well that game, and that would be to the home-field advantage,” he said. 

Junior inside linebacker Chase Allen said the crowds proximity to the field makes it feel like the game is being played inside a basketball arena, making it harder to ignore the crowd. 

When defensive coordinator David Elson sends in signals with non-verbal hand signs, Allen then relays the defensive schemes to his team on the field.

Usually teams are allowed to hold practice before game day, but SIU will not have the chance because of high school playoff games being held in the UNI-Dome on Friday. 

“Each dome field is a little bit different,” Lennon said. “You just don’t know what you’re getting into, even the field surface is different, you need to bring a few different pairs of cleats.” 

Lennon said dome lighting can differ with some lights being located outside the field and others directly overhead, which can take some getting used to.

The Saluki fast-paced offense is communicated from the sidelines using hand signals, no matter the game location. The offense’s approach, however, differs at the line of scrimmage. 

“When it gets to a point where the offensive line can’t hear me from five yards away, then we will go to a silent cadence,” senior quarterback Mark Iannotti said. “All the receivers and running backs look to the sidelines for the play call, so it’s my communication with the offensive line that we need to take care of.” 

Lennon said snapping the ball using a non-verbal count is the toughest part about playing in domes. SIU uses a high-tempo offense and averages 64.8 more yards per game than any other Missouri Valley Football Conference team. The Salukis also lead the Valley with 36.9 points per game. 

In order to gain yards and score, the Dawgs will need to focus on non-verbal communication before and during the snap. Iannotti said he is not a fan of the type of music typically played during practice times, such as rap and hip hop. He prefers country music, specifically Toby Keith.

“It might bring down the tempo of practice a little bit, but I would be hopping around having a good time,” he said. “The majority of the team would disagree with me, but I would have a good time.”

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @EvanJones_DE 

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