Daily Egyptian

UNI quarterback provides familiar challenge for Salukis

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

SIU football’s defense gives up the ninth-most passing yards in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but opposing quarterbacks have not always needed to go to the air to burn the Salukis. 

The Salukis have so far faced three quarterbacks in MVFC play who are threats to running and throwing the ball. SIU will face another Saturday in Northern Iowa junior quarterback Aaron Bailey.

Bailey is second in the Valley with 898 rushing yards. The transfer from Illinois is coming off a 41-0 win against Missouri State, in which he ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns and earned MVFC Co-Newcomer of the Week honors. 

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“He’s a pretty athletic quarterback,” junior outside linebacker Leonard Garron said. “We’ve seen him do a lot of reads, so that expands their offense. We have to defend the perimeter more.” 

North Dakota State freshman quarterback Easton Stick put up 130 rushing yards against SIU on Oct. 31 in a 35-29 win. Stick has averaged 95.5 rushing yards per game in his four starts. 

Indiana State sophomore quarterback Matt Adam ran for 123 yards and one touchdown Oct. 17 in a 39-36 win over the Salukis. Adam has gained a team-high 630 yards on the ground this season, but the total is offset by an offensive line that has allowed an MVFC-high 39 sacks. 

Illinois State junior quarterback Tre Roberson ran for 72 yards and two touchdowns Saturday in a 42-21 win at Saluki Stadium. 

“[Bailey]’s very similar, very athletic,” David Elson, defensive coordinator, said. “He’s a little bigger, so he looks like he may be a little stronger as a runner, maybe able to break some tackles.” 

Bailey stands 6 feet 2 inches and weighs 226 pounds. Adam is the most comparable mobile quarterback SIU has faced, standing 6 feet 1 inch and weighing 225 pounds. Stick is 6 feet 2 inches and 201 pounds, and Roberson is 6 feet tall and 205 pounds. 

Coach Dale Lennon said Bailey is similar to more than just SIU’s opponents.

“They try to do some similar schemes with them like the zone-read concepts, not a whole lot different than what we do with [senior quarterback] Mark Iannotti,” Lennon said. “That’s something we’re going to have to be aware of, and we’re going to have to do a better job defending Bailey on the run than what we did Roberson.” 

Iannotti is seventh in the conference and SIU’s leading rusher with 656 yards on the ground this season.

Lennon and Elson impressed on the Saluki bench the importance of yelling to the team’s defense whether the play is a pass or if Bailey pulls the ball down and runs with it, as defenders in coverage may have their backs to the line of scrimmage in pursuit of a receiver when the quarterback becomes a runner.

Bailey has completed 83 of 159 passes for 1,181 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. 

Bailey ran for 203 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games for Illinois in 2013 and 2014 as a backup. 

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

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