Rainfall and cold weather didn’t affect the SIU football team Friday as the offense scored five touchdowns and defense recorded eight sacks and four interceptions in the annual Spring Game scrimmage at Saluki Stadium.
About 100 fans bundled up in coats, hats, scarves and blankets while they sipped hot cocoa and watched SIU football. The Salukis split their offensive and defensive players in separate teams; defense wore maroon and offense wore white uniforms, in a preparation match up for the upcoming 2012-13 football season.
Coach Dale Lennon said he was impressed with the team’s performance, and the players executed the playbook well both offensively and defensively.
“It was good to see the offense come out the way they did,” Lennon said. “They looked pretty sharp. Defensively, it was good seeing them step up and take control of the second, third and most of the fourth quarter. Then the offense regrouped at the end.”
The Salukis had top performances from offensive and defensive players.
Sophomore Kory Faulkner, spring starting quarterback, completed 9 of 17 passes for a total of 170 yards. Freshman LaSteven McKinney was the Salukis’ top receiver with seven catches, and he totaled 117 yards. Mika’il McCall, who transfered from the University of Iowa, led all rushers with 43 yards on nine carries. Eight different players recorded sacks for the defense, and freshman cornerback David Boatright had two interceptions.
Other players who suffered injuries observed from the sideline.
Junior starting quarterback Paul McIntosh missed the game because he is still recovering from a shoulder injury from last year’s game against Western Illinois.
Junior nose tackle Kayon Swanson, who sat out because of a bone bruise with tendinitis on his inner left ankle, said he saw the defense has a lot more athleticism this year.
In 2011, Swanson led the team with 52 tackles and added nine and a half tackles for loss with four sacks, according to scouting reports.
He said in the 2012-13 season, the defense looks to work harder and get stops.
“I saw that the defense is so athletic this year,” Swanson said. “We can do a lot more defensively than in the past years because of the overall athletes we have on this team this year. They are fast and a lot smarter in the playbook.”
Swanson said the team’s offensive game has improved a lot with new plays such as the tight end, running back position plays that have been instilled into the program by offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, but he said they’ll also have some challenges as well.
“Offense has a lot of promise and a lot of challenges that they need to overcome,” Swanson said. “But they most definitely look like they can be something special.”
Freshman MyCole Pruitt, who caught two passes for 72 yards, said the team’s offense has improved during spring training. Pruitt said the offensive team works with DeBoer and runs what are called “X” plays — a type of offense executed on the field.
“Coach is always talking about ‘X’ plays, and we had a lot of them,” Pruitt said.
Lennon said overall, it’s hard to thoroughly evaluate a spring ball game because everything wasn’t perfect. He said he was glad no players were injured during the game.
The Salukis will start the season with a home-opener Sept. 15 against South East Missouri State.