Column: The big letdown

By Gus Bode

The feeling was anticlimactic.

Watching SIU’s game Saturday against Illinois State was kind of like seeing an atrocious movie after the previews made it look like a can’t-miss, unforgettable cinematic adventure.

The game was tagged as the best Division I-AA game of the weekend, and many considered it a showdown of the best two teams in Illinois.


The Redbirds’ 37-10 victory made it clear which team that was and negated all the pre-game hype.

For anyone wearing maroon, watching the game probably wasn’t worth the four-hour trip or the almost three hours it took to play out.

Heck, even my friends from Illinois State were already at home and napping before the fourth quarter started.

This Saluki team must have missed something.

The score wasn’t supposed to be lopsided. Quarterback Nick Hill was supposed to throw for more than 88 yards. The Salukis’ defensive line was supposed to make a mockery of ISU’s top-rated pass game.

The game was supposed to be – well, a game. Too bad it wasn’t.

The Redbirds dominated everything from the pre-game warm-ups, when ISU’s student section pelted the Salukis with plastic footballs while they huddled, to the postgame celebration, when cheers of “We don’t give a damn about southern Illinois” rang from ISU’s locker room.


The Redbirds controlled all of the on-the-field happenings, too, by out-gaining the Salukis by more than 200 yards, not turning the ball over and making the big plays when SIU didn’t.

SIU head coach Jerry Kill called it a team breakdown. It looked that way.

“They got us out of our rhythm defensively, and they got in a rhythm offensively,” he said.

Usually, the Salukis’ game plan goes something like this:

Give Arkee Whitlock the ball.

Watch Arkee run.

Watch Arkee score.

Pass the ball.

Then, watch Arkee run some more.

While Whitlock was still the game’s leading rusher with 140 yards, his drudgery on the turf didn’t open up SIU’s passing game.

“We didn’t execute the game plan like we should,” Hill said. “They got momentum and rolled with it.”

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Salukis. They face a Western Kentucky squad that is much better than its 3-3 record indicates.

Hill said the important thing is how the Salukis rebound from the blowout.

“There’s only two things you can do after a loss like this. You can either hang your head and think about it all week about things you could have done different, or we could just bounce back,” Hill said.

If the Salukis can do the latter, Saturday’s monumental letdown will be a thing of the past.