Dawg tired Salukis enter off week

By Tony McDaniel

After three straight losses and an injury to its leading rusher, SIU football finally gets a break.

It is week 10 and most teams have already had their bye week, giving teams a chance to rest their players. Unfortunately for SIU, its bye week comes with three games left to play.

The Salukis are in a tough and crucial run of games, and prior to the bye, haven’t had a chance to catch their breath.

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After the 41-26 loss on Homecoming to Indiana State, the Salukis must win their remaining three games to become playoff eligible.

It is clear the Salukis are not the same team that started the season 5-1. The SIU secondary struggled to keep up with ISU’s receivers and allowed 215 rushing yards to the No. 116 ranked rushing offense in the Football Championship Subdivision.

That’s a far cry from the defense who was shutting offenses down during the first six games of the season.

Head coach Dale Lennon said in his postgame press conference the Salukis’ shortcomings in Saturday’s game could be chalked up the lack of rest and the grid of the season, and he is correct.

The SIU defense will happily welcome this break to rest their legs. The defense will hopefully return as the same dominant unit that kept the offense in games during the first handful of games.

The offense needs this bye week just as much as the defense.

Senior running back Malcolm Agnew showed how important he is to the offense from the sidelines in a walking boot and on crutches.

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Without their leading rusher the Salukis were unable to get their offense going. Four Saluki running backs combined for just 64 yards in Saturday’s game. A run-first team without a solid running back cannot win games.

Agnew was reported to only miss two weeks and will get a chance to rest his ankle over the bye week to potentially return against Missouri State.

The defense also suffered a few injuries in Saturday’s game. Senior cornerback Courtney Richmond left the game in second half with an injury. Junior safety D.J. Cameron left the game with an injury a few plays later. Both players returned to the game, but any lingering pain will have time to recede before the Salukis take the field again.

Junior quarterback Mark Iannotti can use the week off to collect himself after a couple of poor performances.

Iannotti threw 2 interceptions last week against Youngstown State, and was only 18-33 for 146 yards against North Dakota State on Oct. 11.

In Saturday’s game the Iannotti was sacked three times and turned the ball over twice, including a fumble on the SIU five-yard line that set up an easy Indiana State touchdown.

Iannotti was replaced on the following drive by sophomore quarterback Ryan West and West finished the game for the Salukis. He was 21-34 for 195 yards and 2 touchdowns in his limited role against Indiana State.

Lennon would not specify if Iannotti will remain the starter. He would see how things play out during the next week in practice, he said.

West, the only quarterback on the roster prior to the season with any extensive playing time, could get a chance to start against Missouri State on Nov. 8.

Lennon and his coaching staff will have nearly two weeks to evaluate their quarterback situation.

The Salukis enter the bye week with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. The off week, while it is late in the season, couldn’t come at a better time for SIU. They’ll welcome this chance to rest and regroup for the final three games.

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected], @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 256

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