The team may have lost Saturday’s game and starting quarterback, but there’s no time for the Salukis to hang their heads.
SIU is in the running for a playoff bid and although the Salukis would have loved to be undefeated in the conference to this point, the team still owns wins against top-10 ranked opponents and should be favored in its upcoming games the rest of this season.
The Salukis are 2-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and all four games were against ranked opponents. In contrast, SIU’s last four conference games come against teams with losing records.
If SIU can come away with wins in its next four games, the Salukis will have a resume impressive enough to earn an at-large bid into the football championship subdivision playoffs, an honor they have not received since 2009.
With the tough part of their schedule over, it is time for SIU to use the bye week to regroup and prepare for the season’s final stretch.
Having the extra time off could have a down side though. Coach Dale Lennon said in his weekly Lennon Live talk show that the bye week could also give the team more time to think about Saturday’s disappointing defeat.
“I think the bye week came at a good time for us,” Lennon said. “Unfortunately, the thing with the bye week is that you probably do linger a little bit too long with the emotions of the game.”
What the bye week will do is give backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Ryan West, an extra week to prepare to lead the Salukis for the rest of this season.
Lennon said although West has taken snaps in practice as the backup quarterback, West would be better prepared now that he will receive the majority of snaps in practice because he’s the starter.
“It is a lot different when you have the opportunity to prepare as the No. 1 quarterback going into the game,” Lennon said. “You’ll be taking most of the reps, and that changes everything.”
West will not just be called upon to lead the Salukis for the rest of this season; Lennon said this could also be his audition to take the starting quarterback job coming into next season.
“Right now, he is in position to make this the start of his era,” Lennon said. “He has to come out and prove that he is the next guy and he’s going to have an opportunity to do that.”
The start of the Ryan West era may be next season, but the Kory Faulkner era is now. West’s job will be to hold the fort down long enough to give Faulkner a chance to come back with the Salukis still in playoff contention.
If West can lead the Salukis to wins against the bottom half of the MVFC and Faulkner’s finger heals in time, then Faulkner’s last memory as a Saluki can be leading his team into the playoffs, rather than walking off of the field with his finger in a splint for Homecoming.