Saturday’s victory much needed for SIU football

By Tony McDaniel

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines adversity as a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune.

Merriam-Webster could add the Salukis’ current situation to its list of examples for the word.

The Salukis were without six key players because of either injuries or disciplinary reasons at Saturday’s game against Missouri State. Sophomore quarterback Ryan West also made his first start of the season.

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The coaching staff adapted with a new Saluki offense.

SIU started the game with a high tempo, no huddle offense and West called the plays from the line of scrimmage. This was the first time this season the Salukis went with this tactic and it caught the Bears off guard.

SIU moved the ball downfield with ease to set up a tough 34-yard field goal into high winds on the opening drive. The coaching staff found yet another way to adapt, this time with bold play calls.

The team faked the field goal for an easy score. SIU faked the extra point on the following play to give the Salukis an early 8-0 lead.

On the following offensive drive, the Salukis marched 72 yards on 10 plays to jump to a 15-0 lead.

The quick start stunned Missouri State, but the Bears got going in the second quarter. SIU probably wouldn’t have won without the fast start.

The SIU coaching staff deserves some serious appreciation for its bold start.

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The most valuable asset on the field was surprisingly third-string freshman running back Cameron Walter.

Walter filled in for senior running backs Malcolm Agnew, who was out with injury and Mika’il McCall, who was out for disciplinary reasons.

Walter blew the Bears away with a 210-yard rushing performance in his first career start. His previous high for rushing yards in a single game was 28 against South Dakota on Oct. 4.

Despite becoming the Saluki workhorse, Walter never found the end zone. Each player and coach who spoke to the media after the game sang Walter’s praises.

The defense adapted to adversity as well. It filled in for three key players who were out with suspensions.

Sophomore linebacker Darius Merriweather had a career-high 4 tackles and had his first sack of the season.

Junior cornerback Brandon Willingham made a clutch fourth quarter interception, the first of his career.

Saturday’s victory was truly a team effort. The Salukis are playing with a “next man in” mindset. Each player has the ability to fill in for one another successfully.

That mindset will have to continue next week since junior defensive end Brandon Williams left the game with a leg injury.

Depth at defensive end could be an issue for the remainder of the season because junior defensive end Adam Brandt is suspended.

SIU will face even more adversity next week against Northern Iowa.

UNI defeated North Dakota State to snap its 33-game win streak Saturday. The Panthers defeated the previously undefeated Illinois State Redbirds on Nov. 1.

That does not bode well for the Salukis’ playoff chances.

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