Illinois State is truly the whole package

By Tony McDaniel

SIU football’s opponent Saturday has been one of the biggest surprises in the Missouri Valley Football Conference this season.

Illinois State was picked to finish sixth in the conference’s preseason poll. Since then, ISU has gone 9-1. Their spectacular season set them up with a nice scenario; a win against SIU and a North Dakota State loss, and the Redbirds will be MVFC champions.

SIU head coach Dale Lennon said Saturday’s game is big, his team can ruin MVFC championship hopes and send the seniors out on a positive note during his weekly press conference on Monday.

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Just how likely are SIU to do that? It’s possible for certain, but doesn’t look great.

There is no indication if sophomore Ryan West or junior Mark Iannotti will start at quarterback for SIU. Iannotti finished the last game against Northern Iowa after West was threw 3 interceptions.

Lennon has not commented on who will start since Monday, when he said he wasn’t ready to make that decision. The starter for Saturday’s game will likely not be public knowledge until game time.

It is also unclear if senior running back Malcolm Agnew will return for his final game as a Saluki.

“I’m curious to see how he’s going to be able to go,” Lennon said. “I guess it probably doesn’t look good, but we’ll just kind of see where he’s at as the week progresses.”

Agnew has not played since suffering an ankle injury Oct. 18 against Youngstown State. If Agnew is absent it is likely that redshirt freshman running back Cameron Walter will take most of the carries for the Dawgs.

No Agnew could spell disaster against Illinois State’s No. 20 ranked rushing defense. Walter has proven that he can have big games, but getting to 100 yards on the ground against the redbirds will be no easy task.

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Illinois State’s defense has been a big part of the team’s success; it ranks No. 18 in the Football Championship Subdivision. Unfortunately for SIU, the Redbirds aren’t just sound defensively; they’re the whole package.

Illinois State has a high scoring offense, only three times have the Redbirds been held under 30 points, and never under 20 points. Those impressive numbers earn Illinois State’s the FCS’s No. 13 ranked scoring offense.

Why is the offense so potent? Look no further than junior running back Marshaun Coprich and junior quarterback Tre Roberson.

Coprich and Roberson are first and second respectively in rushing yards on the team.

Coprich has 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground the season for Illinois State. He is ranked No. 3 in the FCS in rushing yards and only three players in the FCS found the end zone more than Coprich this season.

Roberson’s passing numbers wont blow anyone away. He is only in the FCS top-20 in one passing category; he is fifth in yards per completion. What make’s Roberson so lethal is his ability to run.

Roberson has carried for 711 yards and 5 touchdowns. His ability to move under pressure has caused headaches for opposing defenses all season.

Lennon said he thinks Roberson is the best dual-threat quarterback his team will face in 2014.

For SIU to have any chance at victory in this game the defense will have to find answer to Illinois State’s frightening run game.

With a win on Saturday the Salukis can finish 7-5, but it would seem a lot would have to go right for that to happen.

Illinois State is likely to most well around team SIU has faced since the game against North Dakota State on Oct. 11. It will take a big game from the SIU defense just to give the Salukis a shot.

If that doesn’t happen Coprich and Roberson will run wild on the Salukis and SIU will be staring at it’s first season without a winning record since 2011.

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