Consistency is lacking for the Salukis

Senior safety D.J. Cameron reaches for the ball Sept. 12, 2015, during SIU's 27-24 loss to SEMO.

Senior safety D.J. Cameron reaches for the ball Sept. 12, 2015, during SIU's 27-24 loss to SEMO.

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU football continues to be one puzzle piece away from being a good team. Until they figure it out, Saluki fans will continue to have a frustrating year. 

Saturday’s matchup against Western Illinois may have exposed the Salukis’ biggest weakness yet: the inability to play consistent, complete games.

This week, fans saw more of the team that showed up in the first two weeks of the season than the one that showed last week against Liberty.

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The high-octane offense from the first three games was stalled a bit for the first time Saturday, only amassing 425 total yards — the lowest this season.

While 425 yards is still an impressive performance, the inability to string positive drives together in clutch situations did not help SIU’s cause. The Salukis fell flat when they needed a big drive.

After an interception by senior safety D.J. Cameron, the Salukis got the ball with the lead and only 2:43 left in the game.

Needing only a couple first downs to seal the game, the offense was held to a three-and-out possession, giving the ball back to Western for its game-winning drive. 

The Salukis gained just 55 yards on 16 plays in the fourth quarter.

The defense kept SIU in the game but didn’t overwhelm the Leathernecks. 

Saluki defense allowed 528 total yards with 294 from the Leathernecks’ two best players, junior wide receiver Lance Lenoir and senior running back Nikko Watson.

Such performances are expected but the defense stepped up when needed, forcing three turnovers, including a pick-six by sophomore safety Kenny James. 

Special teams, usually the most steady unit had its slip-ups as well, literally. Austin Johnson, last week’s Missouri Valley Special Teams Player of the Week, missed two short — 26 and 24-yard — field goals when he appeared to lose his footing through his kicking motion.

However, the special teams defensive unit was impressive again — senior linebacker Brandon Williams blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown in his second blocked kick in two weeks.

Coach Dale Lennon summed up his team’s performance Saturday: “Every side of the ball gave us a chance to win the ballgame,” Lennon said. “We just don’t have that consistent game to play at a high level straight through.”

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

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