Plenty of positives in Purdue loss

Plenty of positives in Purdue loss

By Tony McDaniel

SIU football took its first loss of the season, but can learn from it heading into Missouri Valley Football Conference games.

SIU’s 35-13 loss at Purdue University was expected. On paper the Big Ten Conference team should have beat the snot out of SIU, and did in the first half.

The Salukis lacked sharpness in the passing game, and failed to get yards on the ground. Purdue scored after two early SIU turnovers to put the Salukis in a hole. The Boilermakers were up 28-3 after the first half.

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Purdue outmatched SIU’s offensive line, stuffing the run and putting constant pressure on junior Mark Iannotti.

After the first half a different Saluki team returned. As SIU basketball coach Barry Hinson would say, aliens abducted the Salukis and brought them back during half time.

In the second half, the Salukis outscored the Boilermakers 10-7 and Iannotti’s game improved.

Senior tight end MyCole Pruitt led the passing game, contributing to the Salukis’ 234 yards. Pruitt had his best game of the season with a career-best 10 catches for 136 yards.

Pruitt eclipsed 2,000 career-receiving yards Saturday. He said the milestone was a huge accomplishment, but he would have rather won the game.

The Salukis can rely on Pruitt to put the team on his back. Pruitt is the kind of player who will step up in big situations. He did just that against Purdue to show why he’s an All-American.

The Purdue loss marked the end of SIU’s non-conference season. SIU can be proud of its 3-1 record, but has improvements to make before MVFC play.

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The Salukis showed that they are a second-half team against Purdue. SIU is outscoring opponents 59-10 in the second half of games this season. The massive scoring differential shows that SIU’s defense is key.

Even when the offense struggles it seems as if the game is never out of reach.

Coach Dale Lennon said he wants to be a first-half team too. How he will accomplish that is yet to be seen, but it seems as for now Lennon’s halftime adjustments work for the defense.

SIU can take a few positives from the game.

SIU never broke against the Boilermakers either. An early 28-0 hole wasn’t even enough to kill the Salukis’ fight.

It was evident that even in a loss the Salukis are a pretty good team. If a few plays go differently SIU could have been in a position to win the game during the fourth quarter. SIU was closer in talent to Purdue than the score suggests.

Against Eastern Illinois University the Dawgs demonstrated that they could easily handle top Football Championship Subdivision teams. In the win over SEMO, SIU showed it can handle being the favorite. Now the Salukis have showed they can put up a fight against superior teams.

SIU starts MVFC action Saturday against Western Illinois University at Saluki Stadium.

The Salukis should be one of the leaders among the MVFC for the rest of the season. No. 1 North Dakota State University will test the Salukis, but SIU should win at least six of its eight remaining games. That would put the Salukis’ record at 9-3 and should be good enough for a post-season birth.

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