Takeaways from SIU’s win over Missouri State

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

1. If the Salukis win and no one is there to see it, does it really count?

The Salukis won 73-26 Saturday against Missouri State. Too bad almost no one saw it. The combination of fall break for SIUC students, a bad matchup on the field and other factors made for the lowest recorded attendance in Saluki Stadium history at 5,504. 

By my count, around 100 students were in the stadium at kickoff and about 25 were left towards the end of the game. 

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Home-field advantage is something a program should be proud of, but if the program can’t get students with free tickets in the stands, there’s a problem.

2. Numbers can lie.

A quick look at the game statistics will show the Salukis dominated this game in almost every way. And they did, creating the third-best offensive output in Saluki history. But, these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Senior quarterback Mark Iannotti even said there were a lot of things left on the field and mistakes were made. A total offense of 673 yards is always impressive, but Missouri State has the worst defense in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Bears came into today’s game last in the conference in scoring, rushing and total defense. They also ranked second to last in passing defense.

These statistics make the 673 total yards of offense look less impressive. The numbers put up on Saturday are almost guaranteed to not be replicated during the rest of the season, when the toughest part of the schedule comes, but should give the team a confidence boost for next week at Indiana State.

3. The special teams defense isn’t as great as I thought.

I wrote this week about how well the special teams has done for the Salukis this year. However, the Bears worked the Salukis kick return defense, which was ranked second in the conference going into Saturday’s game. 

The Bears took 12 kick returns, averaging 23.33 yards per return, which is higher than the Salukis’ average of 18.82 yards per return allowed. The unit did well elsewhere, blocking another punt to raise their season total to three. But this shows that the unit still needs work and can improve.

4. Hooray for depth

The Salukis have not been able to shake off the injury bug. The team has already lost three players for the season because of injury, two more who missed at least one game and another two players — senior safety Anthony Thompson and senior linebacker Blake Mattson — who left the game for at least one play today.

Thankfully this was a game where getting younger players experience was actually beneficial, but heading into the roughest part of the schedule the Salukis will need every man available to report to work.

5. Those who did show up saw the future.

Coach Dale Lennon said teams always want to get the young players in when the opportunity is presented.

In a blowout game like Saturday’s was, the opportunity came. Nine players scored: three achieved their first career touchdown while another got his second; four different players lined up at quarterback, including redshirt freshman Sam Straub; nine players caught a pass and 27 Salukis recorded a tackle, including seven freshmen.

Coach Lennon discussed how much he likes his young players this year earlier in the season, and Saturday’s game was fans’ — all 5,504 of them — first chance to see them.

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

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