Playoffs could be in Salukis’ future

By Tony McDaniel

After Its 53-20 win over SEMO, the Saluki football team is off to its best start since 2007.

The Salukis’ passing game clicked Saturday night as Junior quarterback Mark Iannotti threw 6 touchdowns to tie the SIU single-game school record.

The Salukis controled the game from all aspects, scoring 29 points off 5 SEMO turnovers, dominating possessions, and totaling 465 total yards of offense.

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All three games this year have been won by more than two scores. Statistically, the Salukis are fourth in the Football Championship Subdivision with 44.3 points per game. SIU is 14th in scoring defense, holding teams to 14.7 points per game.

SIU’s senior running back Malcolm Agnew is on his way to a career year. Agnew has rushed for 450 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 receiving touchdowns. Agnew is averaging 8.0 yards per carry and 150 total yards per game and is on his way to postseason award consideration.

This is the best start to any football season most students have seen. As a result, Saluki Stadium was packed with 10,385 in attendance, 1,800 more than last season’s average attendance.

The Salukis have a chance to go undefeated this year, but so does every team that starts the season 3-0.

There are things SIU football can still do better. When it comes to passing yards allowed, SIU is tied for 53rd in the FCS with the Fighting Camels of Campbell University. SIU is also 83rd in interceptions thrown.

Excitement surrounding the Saluki football program is great for SIU and Carbondale, but it is important not to get too high yet on SIU.

Ahead lies a daunting task for SIU, Purdue University. Purdue is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team on SIU’s schedule. It also is the first game in a string of grueling matchups.

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After the Purdue game the Salukis will open the Missouri Valley Football Conference season with home games against Western Illinois University and South Dakota University. Both teams were picked to finish near the bottom of the MVFC in the preseason poll.

After the home stand, SIU will have road games against FCS opponents No. 1 North Dakota State University and No. 16 Youngstown State University. SIU will also have games against Illinois State University and Indiana State University, of which are all having good starts to the season.

The season for SIU will only get tougher from here on out.

SIU has a good football team, one that has outscored opponents 133-44 this season. Now we get to learn just how good the team is.

If the Salukis can go to West Lafayette, Ind., and pull off an upset over a Big Ten Conference school, the Salukis can ride that momentum into MVFC play.

Purdue is a beatable opponent for the Salukis. A 4-0 start is achievable. SEMO only lost by eight points to the University of Kansas last weekend, a team similar to Purdue. And it is evident after Saturday night’s game that SIU is a far better team than SEMO.

If the Salukis lose to Purdue, it’s not the end of the world, but it could be where the season begins to take a turn for the worst.

The Salukis will not go undefeated this season; they’re bound to take a few losses from Purdue, NDSU, Youngstown, or maybe even Northern Iowa University. The schedule is just too tough.

Playoffs are becoming more and more realistic as the season continues. It should take 9 wins to earn a playoff birth and SIU is already a third of the way there. The season will hinge on SIU’s ability to navigate the MVFC schedule.

SIU has the potential to beat Purdue and possibly snap North Dakota State’s 27-game win streak, the longest in FCS history. SIU should also be a contender to win the MVFC by season’s end. If SIU can accomplish those feats this will go down as one of the best teams in school history.

However, if the Salukis fall short of the playoffs, this season can go down as a disappointment for fans and coaches alike.

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

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