BY JEREMY HOECK
Dale Lennon wasn’t surprised when he was asked Tuesday about his team’s inclination to dominate second halves.
His Southern Illinois football team (4-1) is ranked No. 15 and 16 in FCS polls this week based in large part to what it’s done after halftime this season.
Or, as Lennon joked, maybe in spite of what SIU has done in the first half.
“That’s the type of number you want to have in the second half,” said Lennon, whose Salukis host the University of South Dakota on Saturday night at 6 p.m. in Carbondale. It marks the first meeting between the two programs.
“You want to play your best football in the third and fourth quarter.”
Through five games, the Salukis have out-scored opponents 83-13 in the second half and have surrendered only one touchdown after halftime (to Purdue).
It took until the third game for an opponent (Southeast Missouri State) to score in the second half against SIU. And in last week’s Missouri Valley Football Conference opener, the Salukis out-scored Western Illinois 24-3 after halftime.
“We’ve got a veteran football team, so that’s probably a little bit of what you’re seeing,” Lennon said.
To that end, SIU started six seniors on both offense and defense a week ago, as well as a combined five juniors.
A big part of that success after halftime is due to the adjustments made by those veterans, Lennon said.
Southern Illinois’ opponent Saturday, meanwhile, is looking to simply find a way to play a complete 4-quarter game away from Vermillion.
South Dakota (2-2), which was off last week, heads to Carbondale riding a top-25 victory over Northern Arizona.
“We’ve got to learn how to win games on the road. That’s a focus for this young program in this conference,” USD head coach Joe Glenn said Tuesday.
“There are some opportunities here that we have to step up and take advantage of.”
While the Salukis have allowed a total of 13 second-half points this season, the Coyotes have allowed 21 points after halftime in each of the last two weeks.
Still, though, Lennon commended what he’s seen on film from South Dakota.
“I like their style of play, they have a toughness about them that’s impressive,” he said.
“They’re not going to be intimidated going to any place in the league, and that will carry them a long way.”