Coyotes’ bark worse than their bite

By Tony McDaniel

SIU will be halfway through the season and are in a position to have just one loss after Saturday’s game.

The Salukis (4-1, 1-0) will face South Dakota (2-2, 0-0) for the first time in the history of the two programs. South Dakota spent part of the season ranked in the Football Championship Subdivision top-25, but finds it self on the outside looking in this week.

In South Dakota’s games this season its wins have all come at home. The Coyotes defeated No. 25 Northern Arizona on Sept. 20, and William Penn on Sept. 6. Adversely the Coyote’s losses have all been on the road, and to very good teams.

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South Dakota opened its season at Autzen Stadium against Oregon, the No. 2 team in the Football Bowl Subdivision and lost 62-13. South Dakota suffered its second loss of the season 28-20 against No. 7 Montana two weeks later.

South Dakota lost more than just the game against Oregon in week one. Junior quarterback Kevin Earl broke his thumb and still has not returned. Earl threw for 1,920 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2013.

Sophomore quarterback Ryan Saeger stepped in for Earl after his injury and has played well. Saeger is yet to throw for more than 200 yards in a game, but has showed his prowess as a mobile quarterback.

The sophomore has run for 200 yards and 4 scores this season. Montana was the only team that seemed to have an answer for Saeger, he only accumulated 18 yards against the Grizzlies.

Saeger isn’t the only Coyote that runs well. Their offense is predicated on its rushing attack.

South Dakota uses two running backs, sophomore Trevor Bouma and senior Jasper Sanders. The two have combined for 604 yards and 4 scores on the ground this year.

A major part of the rushing success is the sheer size of the Coyote offensive line. Four lineman are at least six-foot-five-inches tall, and weigh 290 pounds or larger. South Dakota’s offensive line is able to create holes for Saeger and the two Coyote running backs.

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The combination of all these factors equals the No. 17 rushing offense, and No. 19 ranked team in time of possession in the FCS.

On the other side of the spectrum is the passing offense, which is ranked a dismal No. 100.

Saeger has only completed 57 percent of his passes, and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.

His receivers aren’t producing much either. Only two players have more than 100 yards receiving, and just one receiver, junior Eric Shufford, has found the end zone.

This appears to be by design. The Coyote offense looks as if it is built to run the football.

For the Salukis to win they may only have to stop the run, if they can do that they should control the game clock as well.

Junior quarterback Mark Iannotti and the rest of the Saluki offense wont need to be spectacular to have success against South Dakota’s defense.

South Dakota ranks No. 78 in total defense, No. 100 in rushing defense, and No. 89 in red zone defense. The Saluki offense, if it is clicking, can have a field day against the Coyote defense.

Senior running back Malcolm Agnew has a nice chance to run wild for the first time in a few weeks. South Dakota has allowed over 200 rushing yards in every game but one this season.

The Coyotes will have one thing on their side, rest. South Dakota is coming off of a bye week after its loss against Montana. The Salukis wont have a bye until the first weekend in November.

I would have thought this game would be closer if it was played earlier in the season. Time has shown that South Dakota is one-dimensional on offense and can struggle defensively against some of the better teams, which SIU has proven it is.

If the Salukis can get the offense going early and shutdown the rushing attack, SIU will be 5-1 at the halfway point of the season. The adage ‘games are won and lost in the trenches’ will ring true in this game.

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

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