Out of MVFC race, Dawgs playing for pride

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

While a 3-7 overall record and 2-5 Missouri Valley Football Conference record leaves the SIU football team out of the running for the conference title or a playoff spot, the team still has something to play for. 

Players mentioned pride as a driving force behind the team in this final week of the season. 

“We’ve just got to finish strong,” senior safety Anthony Thompson said. 

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SIU coach Dale Lennon has said all year every week is a season. The Dawgs go on the road to face No. 15 Northern Iowa (4-3, 6-4) at 4 p.m. Saturday in the team’s quest to be undefeated in the 11th “season” of the year. 

“The goal every week is to go 1-0,” junior outside linebacker Leonard Garron said. “I think everybody’s got the right mentality. Everybody came in and had a good Sunday, so we had a good start to the week.” 

Northern Iowa is tied for fourth in the MVFC with Western Illinois. The Leathernecks hold the tiebreaker over the Panthers on the strength of a 24-19 win Oct. 17, but UNI is projected to be in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff field by FCS Bracketologist George Hammond. 

A win Saturday would tie Northern Iowa with South Dakota State and WIU for third if South Dakota loses to WIU on Saturday. 

A loss could put UNI in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Valley at 4-4, and at the mercy of a tiebreaker with Youngstown State.

Senior quarterback Mark Iannotti said this week’s game can set next season’s tone for returning players. 

“If we throw in the towel and quit now, that’s the message that we’re sending to these younger guys,” Iannotti said. “So we definitely have to go out there, finish strong and set the tone that Saluki football players are tough.” 

Statistically, Iannotti could increase the school record for total offense in a single season Saturday. His 3,587 yards are also an MVFC record, and even if he does not record a single yard Saturday, he will still finish 2015 with the best per-game average in Valley history. 

If Iannotti throws for 69 yards, he will become the 15th player in MVFC history to throw for 3,000 yards in a season and the sixth to do so in fewer than 12 games. 

He also needs 245 yards to break the SIU record for most passing yards in a season, set by current co-offensive coordinator Nick Hill in 2007. Iannotti broke Hill’s single-season total offense record Saturday. 

The Salukis have lost three straight games and four of their last five. Their Nov. 7 34-31 loss at South Dakota dropped them to 3-6 overall, assuring them of the program’s first losing record since 2011. That year, SIU finished 4-7, 2-6 and tied for seventh in the conference. 

2011 and 2015 have been Lennon’s only losing seasons at SIU and two of four in his 18-year career. 

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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