Daily Egyptian

Column: Making the case for both SIU quarterbacks

Sophomore+quarterback+Sam+Straub%2C+left%2C+and+senior+quarterback+Josh+Straughan.+%28Photos+by+Ryan+Michalesko+%7C+%40photosbylesko%29
Sophomore quarterback Sam Straub, left, and senior quarterback Josh Straughan. (Photos by Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Sophomore quarterback Sam Straub, left, and senior quarterback Josh Straughan. (Photos by Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Sophomore quarterback Sam Straub, left, and senior quarterback Josh Straughan. (Photos by Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

By Sean Carley

SIU football coach Nick Hill surprised everyone Saturday by starting sophomore Sam Straub at quarterback, effectively benching senior Josh Straughan.

The move had not been previously discussed among media members or — for the most part — fans as well.

Hill said he put Straub in as a “spark” to the offense and team as a whole.

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Straub stepped up in his first career start, leading SIU to a 35-28 victory, which was also the team’s first Missouri Valley Football Conference win this season.

Hill said Straub will start next week against Youngstown State, but here’s the case for either of the two quarterbacks.

Why Straub should start

Well, for one, he showed he can win. Straub looked shaky early in Saturday’s contest, but eventually settled down and took control of himself and the offense.

He completed more than 55 percent of his passes, not the best number ever but teams can be successful with that.

SIU sophomore quarterback Sam Straub launches a pass over South Dakota junior defensive lineman Jake Leohr (18) on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, during the Salukis' 35-28 win over the University of South Dakota Coyotes at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

SIU sophomore quarterback Sam Straub launches a pass over South Dakota junior defensive lineman Jake Leohr (18) on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, during the Salukis’ 35-28 win over the University of South Dakota Coyotes at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Straub’s completion percentage was not as high as it could have been because he limited unnecessary risks while still taking smart chances down the field.

To the fans, a lot of Straub’s incompletions looked like passes he just missed short and skipped to his intended receiver.

But, on most of these passes, the receiver would’ve been teed up for defenders to lay a heavy hit that might’ve injured the player. Straub’s awareness of the entire field is a big positive, especially now that the playoffs are out of the picture and next season will be SIU’s next shot.

The sophomore also showed a willingness to throw the ball downfield and let players make plays. There were six completions of 25 yards or more Saturday, a facet of the offense that had not been as prevalent of late. His 9.97 yards per attempt is more than 2.5 yards higher than Straughan’s was this season.

Saluki quarterback Sam Straub throws a pass during SIU's fall football scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Saluki quarterback Sam Straub throws a pass during SIU’s fall football scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016 at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Straub added another tool to the offense that was missing this season and was crucial to the offense’s success last season: running the ball from the quarterback spot.

He was SIU’s leading rusher Saturday with 68 yards, 42 more than Straughan has all year.

The last reason Straub should start is likely the one fans will appreciate later: Straub will be the man for next season.

Until Straughan came in, all bets were on Straub to be this year’s quarterback. Straughan rightfully earned the job in fall training camp, but he’s a senior.

Playing Straub in these final two games will get him game-ready for next season.

Why Straughan should start

Obviously, his win-loss record is not favorable, but a lot of SIU’s losses this season were not his fault.

Straughan was actually on pace to pass for more than 3,000 yards on the season before being benched. He would have been only the third person in program history to do so behind Hill and Mark Iannotti last season.

A lot of fans claimed these numbers were a product of the risk-averse way Straughan played, which may be true.

Senior quarterback Josh Straughan (12) launches a pass during the Salukis' 38-35 loss to the Missouri State Bears on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Springfield, Mo. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Senior quarterback Josh Straughan (12) launches a pass during the Salukis’ 38-35 loss to the Missouri State Bears on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Springfield, Mo. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Lots of screen passes and other short, quick throws may not be the most appealing way to run a game but if it moves the ball, why avert from it?

Regardless of if it is his fault that his numbers were so high or if it is the receivers doing the work, numbers don’t lie. SIU was moving the ball against quality opponents with Straughan behind the center.

Straughan also had built the chemistry with his receivers that is necessary to run an offense. SIU’s offense has gone through 10 weeks of practice with Straughan and grown accustomed to his decision-making.

Senior quarterback Josh Straughan launches a pass during SIU's fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Senior quarterback Josh Straughan launches a pass during SIU’s fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Hill himself even said just a week ago that when teams try to turn around a program, they “have to stick to the plan.”

Straughan also has the overall experience. He’s been a starter everywhere he’s been and has frankly played more games than Straub has. As a senior, he has seen more defenses, so he knows how to handle situations better on the fly.

If SIU’s defense had been as solid as it was Saturday — for the first three quarters — all season, I’m sure Straughan would have won more games.

Conclusion

Hill has put himself in a win-win situation after starting Straub.

Especially after the win on Saturday, fans are excited to see Hill’s willingness to try new things to get wins and see them pay off.

SIU coach Nick Hill, right, embraces defensive coordinator Kraig Paulson on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, during the Salukis' 35-28 win over the University of South Dakota Coyotes at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

SIU coach Nick Hill, right, embraces defensive coordinator Kraig Paulson on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, during the Salukis’ 35-28 win over the University of South Dakota Coyotes at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

But also, Hill installed an insurance policy for these final two games. If Straub begins to struggle over the next two weeks, he has a proven product he knows can run the offense.

If Straughan does re-enter the offense, he’ll be hungry to show his abilities again and prove he can win.

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

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

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