The SIU football team will be without an important piece of the puzzle for the latter part of this season as senior quarterback Kory Faulkner is out four to six weeks with a right hand injury.
The three-year starter suffered a fracture to his right index finger in Saturday’s 31-10 loss to North Dakota State University.
Faulkner has started the last 26 games for the Salukis and leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in total offense and is 15th in the nation in passing yards with 1,866 yards through eight games.
Faulkner was having a career year for the Salukis with 18 touchdown passes and four interceptions and has thrown more touchdown passes this season than the 16 touchdown passes he had entering the year.
He said the injury is unfortunate, but his setback doesn’t deter the Salukis from playoff aspirations.
“It’s the game of football and you can’t really do anything about it now,” Faulkner said. “We have four games left and they are all winnable games so hopefully if we can get into the playoffs then maybe I will have a chance to play again.”
The injury occurred early in the third quarter on a pass attempt after the Salukis forced a North Dakota State fumble to put the offense in position to score.
“I was throwing it and once I followed through my hand got stuck in a (defender’s) facemask and it broke my right index finger and knuckle,” Faulkner said.
Coach Dale Lennon said in his weekly Lennon Live talk show that Faulkner was playing the best football of his career in the first half against the Bison.
“His confidence was high,” Lennon said. “We came out that third quarter, forced a turnover and had the ball. We’re driving, we get a first down, things are looking positive and then the injury occurred. But that’s the game of football. You may have everything in place for success but something can pop up, then you have to deal with it.”
Faulkner said although he is important to the team’s success, there are many other players who will step up in his absence.
“There are 21 other guys on the football team that all start and I’m just one person,” Faulkner said. “I know I’m the quarterback and leader of the offense but there are 21 other guys that will step up. We still have a good football team.”
Junior receiver LaSteven McKinney said the news of Faulkner’s injury was hard on the team, especially after the defeat against the No.1 team in the country.
“(The news) definitely added insult to injury,” McKinney said. “But we know that Kory is going to be fine in the future.”
Freshman quarterback Ryan West is expected to make his first start of the season, while Faulkner rehabs his injury.
West saw previous action Sep. 14 against the University of Charleston after Faulkner left the game late in the second quarter because of a left shoulder injury. The redshirt freshman completed 5 of 10 passes with two touchdowns and an interception.
McKinney said West will do a good job in leading the offense even with his lack of experience.
“We have a good backup quarterback in Ryan West and Ryan is going to lock himself in the film room and prepare for the next team,” McKinney said. “When you have someone like that backing up Kory, I think he’s going to work hard and ultimately pull through for us and get us some wins.”
West will use the bye week to prepare for his first career start Nov. 2 at Western Illinois.
Lennon said despite the unfortunate circumstances, Faulkner will do whatever he can to help prepare West for the rest of the season.
“(Faulkner) understands the situation that he’s in and right away his immediate thought was ok I have to help Ryan get ready,” Lennon said. “His concern is towards the team and that’s one reason why he was voted team captain.”