4 takeaways from SIU’s loss to Northern Iowa

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

1. Something to play for couldn’t have hurt

It’s nearly impossible to say for sure the Salukis took the field with less enthusiasm or motivation in Saturday’s game without getting inside their brains, but it appeared to be the case. It’s also entirely possible the Dawgs were simply overmatched: Northern Iowa is one of the best teams in the country.

SIU looked uninterested for a lot of the game. The defense, which allowed 512.6 yards per game this season, looked the most unenthused. 

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2. Daquan Isom provided at least one reason to be optimistic for the future

The true freshman running back showed the explosiveness the Saluki offense had been missing since Nov. 2, when he was suspended for a violation of team rules.

Isom had 275 all-purpose yards in the game, highlighted by back-to-back runs that went for 133 yards and two touchdowns. If Isom can keep his nose clean and fellow freshman running back Jonathon Mixon can improve his consistency, the Saluki backfield should have a dynamic one-two punch for the next three years.

3. It’s funny how thoroughly wrong preseason expectations can be

After the end of last season, there was a debate about which quarterback would be the starter for 2015. There was also a consensus that sophomore running back Cameron Walter would be a stalwart in the backfield. 

Walter averaged 1.6 carries per game this season and was quickly displaced by Isom as the starting tailback. Walter closed out his sophomore season Saturday with one carry for negative four yards, cementing the sentiment that his 210-yard performance Nov. 8 at Missouri State last year was an aberration.

Conversely, senior quarterback Mark Iannotti, who lost his starting job toward the end of last season, had to beat out redshirt freshmen Sam Straub and Matt DeSomer and transfer senior Matt McIntosh for the position in the preseason. Iannotti spent his senior season confirming coach Dale Lennon made the right move by sticking with him.

Iannotti set the SIU single-season record for total offense with 3,911 yards. His 24 touchdown passes this year tie him for second-most by an SIU quarterback in a single season with Sherard Poteete, who threw for 24 scores in 1999.

4. The defense needs to get better

SIU’s defense was the second-worst in the Missouri Valley Football Conference this season in virtually every important statistic. The only thing saving the Salukis from the rock bottom of the Valley was Missouri State’s comically awful season. The Dawgs were overmatched by just about every offense they faced. 

Having three of the conference’s top five tacklers on your team appears impressive on the surface, but in reality, junior linebacker Chase Allen, sophomore linebacker Markese Jackson and sophomore safety Kenny James were about the only guys tackling anybody.

The defense wasted a historic season by Iannotti and the rest of the Saluki offense. Defensive coordinator David Elson will have a lot to work on to try to make the SIU defense competitive for next year. 

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

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