CARBONDALE -- Southern Illinois football head coach Nick Hill met with the media on Monday morning to preview the week's game at Indiana State. The Salukis (4-4, 2-2 MVFC) have won back-to-back conference games to get back in the playoff picture.
SIU and Indiana State will kick off at 12 p.m. CT from Terre Haute, and the game will be streamed through ESPN+.
Another week. Week Nine. These weeks seem to click off pretty quickly. We're back to work. Like I told our team yesterday: A good win (Saturday's 48-28 win at South Dakota). We enjoyed it for 24 hours or less. Like I keep saying, I nreally enjoy this group. I feel like the leadership is as good as it has ever been. They played confident and played with an expectation that we went up there to win. It's not a surprise. They come into the building wanting to get better. I felt like we had a great practice. Nobody is satisfied with being 4-4 and 2-2 in the league. We want to be better than that, and we understand that each work is equally important. It's back to work and business and usual. If we have that approach, we will give ourselves a chance to win on Saturday against another good football team. Indiana State is a really good team -- really well-coached, disciplined. They came here and beat us last year, and (Indiana State) is always a tough place to play. We will have to be at our best. I expect our guys to come out and have a great week of preparation. If we do that, we will give ourselves a chance.
On SIU playing its sixth road game in the last nine weeks ...
I've said since the beginning: We understand what our schedule is. You look at what's up next, and you just go with it. I haven't been focused on that. We like to play at home; we've won a couple games at home, but we're looking forward to getting on the road again. This team enjoys being around each other. They're used to the routine. It's a good trip. We practice here (on Friday) and then take a couple-hour bus trip to Effingham, stay the night there and then bus over (to Terre Haute) Saturday morning. When you change time zones, that affects the schedule. But our guys get in a routine on game day. It's four hours before, you eat pregame meal. You bus over, and you get to the stadium with the same amount of time. It's a little earlier start, but we're used to different schedules.
On being physical ...
I think any coach would stand up here and say if you want to win close games in this league, you have to be physical. You have to impose your will. Once you get in this part of the season, you're going to know your opponent well, and they're going to know you. The wins and losses come down to the fundamental things. Number one: take care of the football. We won the turnover battle (at South Dakota) five to one. It's about being more physical than the person in front of you. It's about one-on-one matchups. It doesn't matter if you're a DB vs. a wide receiver, a fullback vs. a linebacker, or a defensive lineman vs. an offensive lineman. It's about having a physicality about you. It's running down on kickoff and being more physical than them. Our team understands that and continues to grow with that. I feel that we have a physical football team. Someone like (fullback) Jacob Garrett is as valuable as anyone on our team. Javon (Williams Jr.) and DJ (Davis) have physical runs. I tell our offense all the time, some of the most exciting plays for me are when we get downhill and go get four or five yards on an inside zone. It's a physical run play, and it's second and five. Those are great plays. Our team is buying into that. I think we've been physical on defense with our pressures and up front. We have to continue to do that. Games are won there in November, for sure. The weather starts to change in the Midwest. You don't know what the weather is going to be. It's probably not going to be as nice as it was last week the rest of the season, when you play in a dome and it's 70, you're playing on turf and there are no conditions. We have to be ready to win games if it's rainy, if it's cold, if it's overcast.
On improving in practice ...
I think our best practices have been when we were 2-4. Early in the season, we had good practices. But the attention to detail to make sure everything is right. I don't expect it to be any different. Our backs are against the wall. We should have a chip on our shoulder. We're not a top-25 team. That's what we told the team: 'That's what people think of us.' We have to go earn it every single day. If we do that, and I expect us to practice well the next two days, they're learning what it takes to win. We've won two games in a row. We're still a 4-4 team, but they see that when they've practiced well and when they have that type of energy and when they finish practice that way, the results have been better on Saturdays. I think we'll continue to do that.