The Saluki defense’s top priority must be to stop Indiana State University’s ground game if the team hopes to bring its win streak to three Saturday.
SIU (2-2, 1-0) expects Indiana State (2-2, 0-1) to get the ball to star running back Shakir Bell — who ranks second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 166 yards per game — as much as possible, coach Dale Lennon said, but the Saluki defense won’t change much of the game plan as the team allows only 114 rushing yards per game.
“We have to play our game. I think it’s important that you don’t try to be someone that you’re not,” Lennon said at his weekly press conference. “(Bell) is just capable of making the big play, and that is a key to their offense, the big-play threat.”
One change the team hopes to see on the field is an offense improvement. The Salukis failed to convert any of their 13 third-down attempts and managed only one offensive touchdown in a 14-6 Missouri State win Saturday, and it faces a Sycamore team this weekend that is second best in the conference and allows only 14.5 points per game.
“Offensively, we needed to be a little more aggressive,” Lennon said. “The rhythm of the offense wasn’t there, and when we did do something, then we would have a penalty negate it, and those are things you have to learn how to overcome, and we weren’t able to overcome that at the level that we would have liked.”
Missouri State held sophomore running back Mika’il McCall to 80 yards on 15 carries in Saturday’s game, but the Salukis succeeded with senior backs Mulku Kalokoh and Steve Strother out of the backfield, as the two combined for 10 carries and 72 yards. Kalokoh scored the game’s only touchdown, a 12-yard pass from junior quarterback Kory Faulkner in the first quarter.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good mix with myself, Mulku and Mika’il carrying the ball,” Strother said Monday. “We are all willing to do whatever it takes to help the team.”
SIU takes a nine-game winning streak against the Sycamores into Saturday’s matchup, but senior offensive lineman Eric Bergman said the team isn’t thinking about past success.
“We just want to be 1-0 this week,” Bergman said. “We’ve just got to win this week.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.