SIU prepares for battle against Kansas State on Saturday

By Cole Daily, Staff reporter

The Southern Illinois football team travels to Manhattan, Kansas on September 11 to play Kansas State. The Wildcats are currently 1-0 after beating Stanford last weekend 24-7.

The Salukis are coming off of a 47-21 victory over SEMO, where sophomore quarterback Nic Baker threw for a record-setting 460 yards and four touchdowns. Baker said he wants to replicate that performance in Manhattan on Saturday. 

“Obviously games like that aren’t gonna happen every week, but that’s what I prepare to go out there and do. I wanna improve every week on the little things. My feet, my accuracy and my decision-making,” Baker said.

Advertisement

Another notable performance from last weekend was from senior wide receiver Landon Lenoir, who totaled 79 yards and one touchdown. Lenoir said the key to the upcoming game is self assurance. 

“He (Head Coach Nick Hill) told us to have humble confidence. We watched the game they played against Stanford and they’re pretty good, but, obviously, we’re good too,” Lenoir said, “So we just need to have confidence heading into the game and have the mentality that we can hang with those guys.” 

Hill wants the team to focus on playing the game and not get caught up in who the opponent is.

“That’ll be the message the entire year,” Hill said. “If we can control how we play and not so much our opponent. It’ll be about our approach, our mindset and really just tackling one game at a time.”

Kansas State is a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision, while SIU belongs to the Football Championship Subdivision. The FBS division features the Power 5 conferences, along with the Group of Five conferences and independents like Notre Dame. FCS teams are 469-2653 all time against FBS opponents.

It is very common for FBS teams to schedule games against FCS teams early in their schedule. This is so FBS teams can have a “break” before playing tougher teams later in the season. Kansas State is giving the SIU program $450,000 to compete in Manhattan. 

SIU is currently 4-40 against FBS opponents, with its last victory coming against UMass in 2019. 

Advertisement

The Salukis are major underdogs in their game against the Wildcats. 

“Any time you play a Power 5 opponent you get the obvious things with supposedly more depth, more scholarships, all that kind of stuff,” Hill said. “We’ve been here before…and our guys will be really excited to get the opportunity to play well.”

Lenoir said the players have a similar mindset and look at this game like any other.

“We’re ready to compete. We know we’re underdogs, but we’re trying to go out there and prove a point. We’re trying to go out and get a big win,” Lenoir said. 

Kansas State has a good portion of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Quarterback Skylar Thompson returned to the Wildcats this year. He has led Kansas State to major upsets over Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State during his tenure. Sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn rushed for 642 yards last year and took home offensive freshman of the year in the BIG 12.

“Offensively, they’ve got some playmakers,” Hill said. It starts with their quarterback, who is a tough winner, obviously the back and a couple of those wide receivers…It’ll be like every week when we play in this league where we can’t give up explosive plays for touchdowns. We’ll have to go and battle them for 60 minutes.” 

The Wildcats coach Chris Klieman has had success against the FCS in the past. He won three FCS titles as head coach and three more as a defensive coordinator at North Dakota State. Hill said the team is ready for Kleiman and his gameplan. 

“He’s a great defensive mind and always has been. But we’ve studied and we’re prepared for what’s gonna come,” Hill said.

On the defensive side, KSU has players like Wyatt Hubert, who was selected to the Preseason BIG 12 All-Defensive Team. It will be important for the Saluki’s offense to gameplan around the talented players on the other side.

“They’re an extremely sound team and they’re not gonna give us anything for free,” Baker said. “They’re sound and they’re gonna make you earn everything.” 

SIU believes the secret to winning this weekend will be in the passing game. Kansas State has more underclassmen in their secondary, and Lenoir thinks the veteran passing attack will be able to take advantage.

“We just wanna attack those guys as much as we can. For me, it’s just making more plays and doing the most for my team,” Lenoir said. 

Bill Snyder Family Stadium holds 50,000 fans, which is roughly 35,000 fans more than Saluki Stadium. Lenoir said this won’t have an effect on the Salukis.

“We got 17 sixth-year seniors and 43 total seniors on our team. We’re a veteran group and we have played a lot of games,” Lenoir said, “For me and a lot of guys around me, we’ve played against Ole Miss, Arkansas State and FAU. It shouldn’t be anything new.” 

Because Kansas State plays in the FBS, it was  able to have a fall season last year. This means the team had a full off-season to recover while SIU did not have the luxury. 

Baker said the Salukis are ready to go and aren’t thinking about their differences in off-season preparation.

“We tweaked our fall and summer programs a bit to make it easier on our bodies. If anything it may give us an advantage because we’re just used to playing football, ” Baker said. 

While Kansas State had more rest heading into the season, SIU has a longer break this week after playing last Thursday.

The Salukis believe they have the tools and mentality to pull off a major upset this weekend.

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected]Statean.com

To stay up to date on all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter

 

Advertisement