Daily Egyptian

Column: The year of “close, but no cigar” for SIU football

Missouri+State+sophomore+running+back+Jason+Randall+%2825%29+is+pushed+out+of+bounds+by+Saluki+defense+during+SIU%27s+38-35+loss+to+the+Bears+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+29%2C+2016%2C+in+Springfield%2C+Mo.+%28Ryan+Michalesko+%7C+%40photosbylesko%29
Missouri State sophomore running back Jason Randall (25) is pushed out of bounds by Saluki defense during SIU's 38-35 loss to the Bears on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Springfield, Mo. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Missouri State sophomore running back Jason Randall (25) is pushed out of bounds by Saluki defense during SIU's 38-35 loss to the Bears on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Springfield, Mo. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Missouri State sophomore running back Jason Randall (25) is pushed out of bounds by Saluki defense during SIU's 38-35 loss to the Bears on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Springfield, Mo. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

By Sean Carley

Somehow, Saluki football found another way to lose a game.

Saturday saw SIU football have a double-digit lead erased for the first time this season en route to a loss.

This type of loss confirms the team as one that is always just not good enough.

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Close, but no cigar. One piece of the puzzle away. This entire season, the team has come up a bit short.

Believe it or not – even with the team sitting at 2-6 — SIU’s opponents have only scored eight more points than the Salukis throughout the year.

SIU coach Nick Hill said after Saturday’s loss: “As hard as it sounds when you’re trying to turn a program around … we have to stick to the plan.”

I don’t know the exact details of said plan, but hopefully it involves one crucial step.

The Salukis need to learn how to win.

It sounds silly, but in sports winning is contagious.

When you get beat week in and week out, that identity clings to you. If the two teams are equal on the field, if one has more confidence in its ability to win, it likely will.

This season appears to be becoming a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People see Saluki football as a bad team based on its results, so the team inherently starts playing poorly, even if it’s not.

SIU was one drive away from beating Florida Atlantic, one drive away against No. 10 South Dakota State, one drive away against Illinois State, all of which are good teams.

I truly believe this year’s team knows it can win. The issue is most of the people on the team haven’t seen success yet in this situation, be it college, the Football Championship Subdivision or the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Only 17 of the 101 players on the current roster were around the last time SIU had a winning season, in 2013.

One coach — defensive line coach Austin Flyger — was around at that time.

No one on the roster or staff was around for the Salukis’ most recent playoff appearance in 2009.

In situations like these, it often just takes a couple breakthroughs to build that sense of confidence and winning back.

SIU has three of these breakthrough opportunities coming in the final three games, all against opponents that were ranked this previous week.

One win may be brushed off by fans as a fluke, even if it’s not. Two can be a breakthrough, one that may carry into next season. No wins, and SIU will not look good mentally or statistically going into 2017.

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

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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