Daily Egyptian

“Team of nobodies” played as a team in victory

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

Teams pride themselves on defending their home field, and this year’s Saluki football squad has stepped up to that task.

Saturday’s 38-31 homecoming win in overtime against Youngstown State boosted SIU to 3-0 at home this year.

However, the win was not like others.

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Youngstown State had more rushing yards (183 to 175), more passing yards (324 to 284) and more first downs (23 to 19) than the Salukis.

The Salukis missed two long field goals and had an extra point blocked.

Losing almost every offensive stat category and missing special teams opportunities rarely result in a win. 

However, coach Dale Lennon’s self-described “team of nobodies” had contributions across the board.

Senior quarterback Mark Iannotti was held in check for the most part, only completing 52 percent of his passes, but made important plays when he had to.

Iannotti found freshman running back Daquan Isom for a 75-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to pull the Salukis within three. Then Iannotti went to senior wide receiver Israel Lamprakes, connecting for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Isom had 167 total offensive yards: 98 receiving yards on two receptions to go with his 69 yards on the ground.

The Saluki defense fought valiantly in the first half, allowing 14 points and stopping the opponent from scoring in an entire quarter for the first time since the Sept. 26 win against Liberty.

Then their leader came back, as junior linebacker Chase Allen was reinstated after serving a one-half suspension for a targeting penalty in last week’s loss at Indiana State.

“Just getting Chase Allen back … that in itself really gave us an emotional lift,” Lennon said. 

Allen made an instant impact everywhere he stepped on the field.

He registered 10 tackles, good for the fourth-highest in the game, and also blocked a punt and field goal.

In wins where it appears no one was incredibly impressive, it’s because everyone did their job to a high level and that’s what fans saw Saturday.

However, the Salukis as a team were not at their sharpest. Even if they play their best in the next game against four-peat national champion North Dakota State, they will still have to battle to pull out a win.

The main obstacle lying ahead is having the Salukis bring the success seen at home with them on the road, where they have yet to win this season. 

The primary difference with the traveling Salukis is their inability to get the one big break to fall their way. On the road, SIU always seems one momentary lapse of judgement away from a win.

The Salukis next road game is Nov. 7 at South Dakota, the lone unranked team left on the schedule. If the Salukis maintain their focus in this game it can serve as a big confidence boost for senior night Nov. 14 against No. 4 Illinois State at Saluki Stadium.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE

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