Defense dominates early in final scrimmage

By Gus Bode

If the defense is as dominant in the regular season as it was during SIU’s preseason scrimmage Thursday night, the Saluki offense won’t have to worry about scoring too many points.

The Saluki defense limited the offense to just 43 rushing yards and 150 receiving yards in SIU’s third and final scrimmage before it kicks off the regular season Sept. 6 against Hampton Universtiy.

Head coach Dale Lennon said the scrimmage was important because it allowed the team to get into game situations in front of a crowd, something it had not experienced to this point during training camp.

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“We need to know what it takes in a game situation to turn the side and hopefully we can take that into the regular season,” Lennon said.

The defense was strong from the get-go. Junior linebacker Brandin Jordan tackled sophomore running back Richard White for a loss on the very first snap.

Junior safety Marty Rodgers led the SIU defense with five tackles and sophomore defensive end Jason Seaman picked up three sacks to help pace the defense.

But the defensive backfield may have been the biggest beneficiaries of the constant pressure applied by the defense.

Freshman DiMarcus Wilson grabbed two interceptions from deep passes thrown by quarterbacks Taylor Beasley and Joe Allaria. Wilson said the defense was able to execute its plays and show off its full potential, and that it was important to do so at the scrimmage.

“It’s important because we got this new defense coming in and we want to come out and set the tempo,” Wilson said.

Defensive coordinator Bubba Schweigert said he was impressed with the defense’s showing, especially its prevention of third down conversions.

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In the team’s second scrimmage, the offense was able to convert on several third down conversions, which Schweigert said was frustrating.

“We were able to stir some things up tonight, but we’ve always got things to work on,” Schweigert said. “Give our guys credit for running around, working hard and making plays.”

Establishing confidence and working on technical aspects, such as finishing tackles, are among the team’s priorities as it prepares for its first game, Schweigert said.

While the defense looked to be thriving in the new scheme, the offense looked lost on the field.

Quarterbacks Joe Allaria and Chris Dieker struggled moving the ball down the field via the deep ball, but were successful with a few screen passes and completions for short yards.

SIU didn’t even find the end zone until the final moments of the scrimmage, when Dieker connected with junior receiver Bryce Morris. A few drives later Dieker connected again for a score, this time on a 49-yard bomb to sophomore receiver Jeff Evans.

Other than that, though, the defense ruled the field.

Allaria said the defense deserves a lot of the credit for shutting down the Saluki offense. He said he expects to be able to make plays when the games count in the standings.

“When we get into a game situation, we’ll have more opportunities to make big time plays and finish drives,” Allaria said.

Luis C. Medina can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected]

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