Salukis approach pivotal game against Youngstown

By Tony McDaniel

The Salukis will not get a break after their first conference loss of the season.

The No. 17 SIU (5-2, 2-1 MVFC) travel to No. 19 Youngstown State (4-2, 1-1) Saturday for the Dawgs’ second straight matchup against a ranked opponent.

The Penguins’ two losses this year came to Illinois in the season opener and Western Illinois last week and SIU beat WIU 34-17 on Sept. 27.

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Youngstown has a high-powered offense and a decent defense.

YSU’s sophomore running back Martin Ruiz burst on to the scene last year. He ran for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman and is on pace to match those numbers this season.

Ruiz is not the only running back who gets things done for the Penguins. Ruiz’s fellow sophomore Jody Webb is having a nice season as well and ran for 340 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The two backs combine to help the Football Championship Subdivision’s No. 22 ranked rushing offense.

The Penguin passing attack is no slouch either. Two quarterbacks, junior Dante Nania and true freshman Hunter Wells combine for the FCS’s fifth most efficient passing game.

Nania has started five games for Youngstown. The junior quarterback has thrown for 784 yards and 6 touchdowns and is a nice addition for the Penguins. He has thrown for 526 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has also completed 65.3 percent of his passes.

Wells could be an effective quarterback in the MVFC for years to come, but he is stuck splitting time with Nania.

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The quarterbacks have a couple of nice options to throw to. Senior wide receiver Jelani Berassa has 418 yards and 4 scores. Junior wide receiver Andrew Williams has 308 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns and averages 21.9 yards per catch. The two make up over half of Youngstown’s total receiving yards.

The key for the Salukis in this game will be their defense. If SIU can control the YSU offense the Salukis will make their task considerably easier.

Youngstown’s defense is not bad, but far from unbreakable.

In total defense the Penguins are No. 54 in the FCS, No. 35 in rushing defense, and No. 29 in scoring defense.

Usually the defensive group who leads a team in tackles is its linebackers, but in Youngstown’s case, it’s the secondary.

Senior cornerback Julius Childs is second on the team with 38 tackles. Safeties, senior Donald D’Alesio and junior Tre Moore have 36 and 35 tackles respectively. Moore also has 2 interceptions

Youngstown’s pass defenders have only intercepted 3 passes this year, but have proven to be strong tacklers.

Among the linebackers the Salukis will have to focus of junior Dubem Nwadiogbu. Nwadiogbu is No. 12 in the FCS with 55 tackles.

The Yougnstown defensive line can create issues for the Salukis’ offensive line as well. Sophomore Derek Rivers has 5 sacks and 21 tackles this season. Junior Terrell Williams has 27 tackles and a sack.

For SIU this game is crucial. A loss here will put the Salukis at 5-3 with little to no momentum for the remainder of the year. However, a win puts SIU at a much more comfortable 6-2 record.

The Salukis desperately need a win this weekend to build momentum for the death march that is the last four games of the season.

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

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