Defense has upper hand in Saluki scrimmage

By Gus Bode

Senior running back Shariff Harris attempts to break the defensive line Saturday during the football scrimmage at Saluki Stadium. Defense held the running backs to a 3.3 average per carry. The first season game is Saturday Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, against Southeast Missouri State University. –Lynnette Oostmeyer| Daily Egyptian

The Salukis capped off the preseason training camp with a scrimmage with only two weeks of practices before the season opener.

The SIU football team made adjustments both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball in preparation for the 2011 season Sept. 3. Although the offensive team dominated in the Aug. 13 scrimmage, it was the defense that controlled the pace Saturday.


The defense improved its confidence on the field and developed a better understanding of the package defense the team plays, coach Dale Lennon said.

He said he likes the competitiveness displayed on both sides of the ball, but the team still has a lot to work on before it will be field-ready.

“Both sides are being competitive, and working hard is what you look for as a coach in this type of situation,” Lennon said. “I think we’re on track. The only way you’ll really know where you’re at is when you get to game day.”

Throughout the scrimmage, the defense nearly eliminated the offensive run game, which held them to 109 rushing yards on 33 carries, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. While the run game stayed quiet, the Salukis’ offense continued to work on its down field threat, completing 25 of its 42 passes for 333 total yards in the air.

Senior inside linebacker Connor James said the scrimmage had a balance of give-and-take, and both teams made big plays. James, entering his fifth camp, said he has been familiarized with the progression of preseason camps, and he is impressed with the advances the team has made so far.

James said the scrimmage was a good way to put an end to the preseason camp, and the team is anxious to have everyone on the team wearing the same uniform.

“We’ve seen each other for two weeks now, and we’re getting a little sick of hitting the same guy on the same play,” James said. “We’re definitely ready to start working together in one way.”


As the team strives toward working as a single entity, it is going to start with the position of the starting quarterback.

Junior quarterback Paul McIntosh, the most experienced of the three quarterbacks in the hunt for the starting position, went eight for 16 with 137 passing yards. This was less efficient from a week before,when he went 10 for 13 with 141 passing yards.

Sophomore A.J. Hill had consistent performances in the two scrimmages, and he finished Saturday’s game completing five for nine passes for 57 yards.

The quarterback who had the biggest improvement was sophomore Kory Faulkner. He completed 11 of his 14 passes and finished the scrimmage with two touchdowns. In the team’s first scrimmage, Faulkner went three for seven with a total of 52 yards.

Saluki quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg said the team is at the point where the coaching staff needs to make a decision on who will permanently hold the starting position. Despite the three quarterbacks bringing different characteristics to the field, Hedberg said there will only be one starter rather than a quarterback by committee. He said the coaching staff is hoping to decide on the starter this week.

“I think we can win football games with any of the three,” Hedberg said. “They’re all very capable of running our offense and taking control of the huddle.”