McIntosh out, Faulkner stays in for South Dakota

By Gus Bode

Kory Faulkner became the Salukis’ starter quarterback under less-than ideal conditions.

“I hate to see Paul (McIntosh) down like that, but we just have to keep preparing,” Faulkner said. “I know that I prepare every week like it was going to be me (at quarterback), so I just have to keep preparing, getting better and better.”

Faulkner has improved since he took over for an injured McIntosh Oct. 1 against Western Illinois. His career-high 334 yards through the air during the loss to Illinois State Saturday set the stage for head coach Dale Lennon’s Monday announcement that McIntosh will be out for the remainder of the season. McIntosh’s shoulder injury suffered against Western Illinois has taken longer than expected to heal.

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SIU quarterback Kory Faulkner listens to quarterback coach Randy Hedberg Saturday between plays against Illinois State University at Saluki Stadium. Faulkner will start his fifth game of the season Saturday at South Dakota State University. Since their victory against Missouri State University, the Salukis are on a five-game losing streak. Steve Matzker | Daily Egyptian

“We went ahead and planned surgery for him. We’ll try to get that taken care of as soon as possible,” Lennon said. “There is no chance of him coming back this year.”

SIU was 2-1 before the Oct. 1 match up at Western Illinois, but the teams defeated now is a collective 3-14. McIntosh was among conference leaders in total offense, with 162.2 yards per game through the air and 54.5 per game on the ground.

The Salukis have lost five straight since McIntosh went out, but Lennon said the quarterback play wasn’t the main reason for the team’s struggles. Its last five opponents are a combined 25-8 with three teams in the Sports Network Top 25 poll.

“We’re not quite as solid across the board as we need to be, and that’s where you’re getting some of the inconsistencies,” Lennon said. “One week, you can be looking like the team you want to be, and the next you’re wondering where that team disappeared to.”

The offense has relied more on running back Jewel Hampton, who is tied for second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 11 touchdowns. Faulkner’s rushing attempts per game have fluctuated from a low 19 against Northern Iowa to a career-high 37 attempts Saturday against the toughest run defense in the MVFC.

“You try to do what the defense will let you do. We knew we were going to be challenged in the run game (Saturday),” Lennon said. “We wanted to do the next best thing, which was some high-percentage passes where you’re just trying to utilize the whole field, and that’s what (Faulkner) was doing.”

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Faulkner said he’s more comfortable with the offense now than when he first replaced McIntosh, and a large part of that is because of emergence of freshman tight end MyCole Pruitt. His 26 receptions and 317 yards in the last five games with Faulkner are tops among the team.

“When you’re catching it well, (Faulkner’s) going to have more confidence in you and want to throw you the ball more,” Pruitt said.

Even though Lennon said Faulkner’s performance has progressed during the last few games, sophomore A.J. Hill still looms on the bench for the Salukis. Hill was the third member of the quarterback derby during preseason camp and Lennon said he was the “2B” to Faulkner’s “2A” before the season started.

“Hill) has to be ready every single play. It can happen that fast. He’s very valuable to the team and his role hasn’t diminished,” Lennon said. “(Faulkner) took a step forward and our confidence with (Faulkner) right now is good, but that doesn’t mean (Hill) is out of the picture.”

Faulkner said he hasn’t thought much about what the next three games will mean for his job next year, and his attitude will remain the same as he prepares to be the starter against South Dakota State.

“Every week it’s about getting better and better so next year, when there is competition or if there is competition, that just the coaches feel confident about (my progression),” Faulkner said. “But right now, the focus is on beating South Dakota State and getting this team back on track.”

Freshman Matt Lipham will travel with the team to Brookings, S.D., Saturday as the third string quarterback.

 

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