The SIU football team has a top-notch defense, and the statistics prove it.
The Salukis have forced 22 turnovers (14 fumbles, eight interceptions) this year. That number not only leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but it also is the second-most in the Football Championship Series.
The special teams also has proved to be a game-changer. The team has blocked three punts on the year, and the special teams blocked a field goal and an extra point in Saturday’s matchup with North Dakota State.
The Saluki defense and special teams have accounted for 31 percent of the team’s touchdowns this year with eight of 26 touchdowns.
Coach Dale Lennon said the team no longer is surprised when a kick is blocked, rather it’s expected because of practice preparation.
“It ends up being a belief. Once you’ve done it, you just know that you can,” Lennon said. “We spend a lot of time working on that.”
One thing the Salukis do weekly on the practice field is have what they call a block party. There are four stations set up that help with kick-blocking techniques, and every member of a punt or field goal block team must go through the stations. The stations are designed to help with footwork, hand placement and timing.
Sophomore linebacker Tyler Williamson got in on the block party Saturday as he knocked down North Dakota kicker Adam Keller’s 47-yard field goal attempt.
“As the season has gone on, we have taken pride in special teams and those game-changing plays,” he said. “I have always enjoyed trying to go after field goals and punts. I think we have a good attitude about it.”
Williamson said a field goal block can be a bit painful.
“It stings,” he said. “I caught it on my forearm (Saturday), but it’s not too bad.”
Along with the field goal block, Williamson also recored a forced fumble for the defense, which is his third of the year. Only 12 other players in school history have forced three fumbles in a season.