SIU opens MVFC season against Western Illinois

By Tony McDaniel

The Salukis will square up against one of their oldest rivals in this season’s opener.

SIU (3-1) hosts Western Illinois University (2-2) in Saturday’s game. It also marks the start of the Missouri Valley Football Conference season for each team.

SIU is two-thirds of the way through its season, and can boast a respectable undefeated record against Football Championship Subdivision teams. For the Salukis to remain undefeated against the FCS, it will take a near superhuman effort in the remaining games.

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The Dawgs face MVFC opponents in each game for the rest of the season. It is safe to say the Valley is the toughest conference in the FCS. An MVFC record seven teams are currently in the FCS top-25.

Western Illinois is unranked, but that does not make them a pushover for the Salukis. It is likely the Fighting Leathernecks will live up to their name and fight the Salukis for every inch.

If history is any indication of this year’s tilt, it will be a close game. Twenty games have been won by seven points or less.

Western Illinois’ record doesn’t indicate how good the team is.

Both of the Leathernecks’ losses came from Big Ten Conference schools, the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern University. They were outscored 61-10 in those games.

It has been a different story in both of Western’s wins.

The Leathernecks crushed both of their FCS opponents, Drake University and Valparaiso University, by a combined score of 83-19. Based on WIU’s games this season, it is hard to tell just how good the team is.

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What we do know is WIU has the ability to move the football.

The Salukis will have to deal with a sophomore quarterback and talented receivers for the second straight week.

Western sophomore Trenton Norvell’s 925 passing yards ranks him No. 14 in the nation. He has however, thrown an unimpressive 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this season.

Norvell’s passing yards could be slightly inflated, considering the Leathernecks played from behind in both of their games against FBS opponents.

Norvell has two receivers he likes to look for down field as well.

Sophomore wide receiver Lance Lenoir leads the Leathernecks with 23 catches and 250 receiving yards this year. Norvell will also look in the direction of senior wide receiver HI-C Scott. Scott has 204 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns this year.

Scott also has one of the best first names in college football, period. He may have already won my award for best name.

Senior running back J.C. Baker is off to a great start for the Leathernecks. He has rushed for 427 yards this season, an average of 102.5 yards per game. Baker is ranked No. 17 in the FCS in rushing yards. Despite the high yardage total, he only has one score on the ground so far this season.

The Leathernecks will present the biggest challenge yet to the Saluki defense.

On defense, Western doesn’t rank anywhere close to the top of the FCS rankings in any stat category. Again this could be because of the two Big Ten teams it played.

Western is led on defense by its linebackers. Senior Luke Venegoni and junior J.J. Raffelson lead the leathernecks in tackles with 62 combined. The two could create problems for senior running back Malcolm Agnew and the rest of the SIU rushing attack.

Two defensive linemen, junior Eddy Holtschlag and senior Gino Durley, could help create issues for Agnew too. The two have combined for 29 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

SIU’s offensive line should have the ability to neutralize the WIU defensive line.

SIU ranks No. 25 in sacks allowed in the FCS, while Western is No. 88 in total sacks this season.

If Western played in a conference other than the MVFC, it could be a conference champion contender. Unfortunately for Western they do play in the MVFC, and is on its way to a finish at the bottom of the conference.

As long as SIU can bounce back from its first loss and play like it did in the first three games the Salukis should begin the MVFC season 1-0.

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

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