Salukis look to blackout cancer on senior day

By Gus Bode

The Salukis are set to take the field at Saluki Stadium for the last time this season, and will represent the university with a different look.

SIU received special approval from the NCAA to wear black jerseys for the Black Out Cancer game, a campaign designed to raise money for cancer research, in part by the bidding of the game-worn jerseys.

The new look will also put an emphasis on senior day, as the Salukis take on Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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The Saluki football team prepares to run a play Tuesday during practice at Saluki Stadium. The Salukis will host Eastern Illinois University at 2 p.m. Saturday during the Black Out Cancer Game at Saluki Stadium. All proceeds from the fundraiser go to the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer. Sarah gardner | Daily Egyptian

Despite a career-high running game by junior running back Jewel Hampton and three forced turnovers by the Saluki defense against South Dakota State, SIU hasn’t been able to get out of its rut with the continuance of a six-game losing streak.

Defensive coordinator Bubba Schweigert said he expects it to be an emotional game, but hopes his players keep their composure.

“The one thing you have to be careful about when you build so much emotion during the week is that you’re emotional for a short time, and you don’t maintain it through the game,” Schweigert said. “It’s going to come down to execution and playing with a lot of intensity, but it will play a part.”

Apart from the emotional high associated with the 18 seniors playing their final home game and the cancer research fundraiser, Schweigert said the team needs to be prepared for an all-consuming game, as the Panthers also have something to play for.

EIU head coach Bob Spoo will coach his final game Saturday after 25 years in the business.

“I would think, for their coach being there for such a long time, that their guys are really going to want to play hard for him and get this last game,” Schweigert said. “I would hope our guys will match that intensity.”

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As Schweigert anticipates an increase in intensity, offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said he expects the team to build off the step forward it took offensively against SDSU in its previous game.

DeBoer said offense hasn’t been as consistent during the second half of the season, but thinks the team has something to build off. He said it was nice to be able to get back to an effective running game, which started with the efficiency of Hampton.

“It was nice to be able to have a foundation to rely on to get some offensive yards,” DeBoer said. “(Hampton has) been what you want, and he’s made a lot of things happen on his own. It’s nice to have because you want your running game to develop a personality … and he gives you that running the ball.”

Hampton carried the ball 28 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns against SDSU. He is now only 167 yards short of the 1,000 rushing yards milestone for the year.

With a win and 167 rushing yards by Hampton, two Salukis could find their way into the record books despite the winless month and a half.

Hampton would be the 19th player in SIU history to rush for 1,000 or more yards, while head coach Dale Lennon could tie for sixth on the all-time wins list of Saluki football coaches with 28.

After the game against SDSU, Lennon said the team hasn’t been able to get over the hump to close out games — a determining factor for the team’s lack of success.

“It’s frustrating,” Lennon said. “It’s kind of been the trend of our season.”

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