SIU approaches toughest test

By Tony McDaniel

SIU football will put its perfect record on the line for its toughest matchup yet Saturday.

SIU (3-0) will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., for a date with Purdue University (1-2). The Salukis have looked strong early in the season, but will be tested by the Football Bowl Subdivision team.

The Salukis’ main worry in this game should be to return with all of their players healthy. A loss to Purdue is not nearly as bad as a loss to Purdue and losing a player like senior running back Malcolm Agnew for a few weeks.

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SIU will need to be healthy to get through its grueling Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule and earn a birth in the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.

As for the game itself, the Salukis have a legitimate shot at an upset.

While Purdue is in the Big Ten Conference, it is one of the teams that will finish close to bottom. Purdue is one of the FBS’s youngest teams. Twelve freshmen have played for the Boilermakers this season and the team is seventh in the FBS in underclassmen.

What Purdue lacks in experience it makes up for in size and speed.

On offense Purdue has the largest player in the FBS this season. Junior guard Corey Clements is 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 400 pounds. With an offensive lineman of that size it is easy to see why Purdue has only allowed 5 sacks this season.

Senior running back Raheem Mostert, who also runs in several events for the track team, won the Indoor Big Ten Championship in four track events. Mostert, who returns kicks and punts for the Boilermakers, was clocked at 10.15 seconds in the 100-meter dash prompting NFL.com to name him the fastest player in football in 2013-2014.

Purdue will also let senior Akeem Hunt take a few touches in the running game. Hunt averages 5.2 yards per carry this season.

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The combination of size on the offensive line and speed at running back will make for a tough combo that SIU will have to stop.

In the passing game Purdue ranks No. 95 in the FBS. Sophomore quarterback Danny Etling has completed just 57 percent of his passes. He has thrown for 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Expect Etling to pass to his tight ends often. Senior tight end Justin Sinz leads the team in catches and yards. Only two wide receivers are in Purdue’s top five in catches.

Purdue ranks in the top 50 in few team statistic categories. The defense is 32nd in sacks this season. SIU’s offensive line will be tested by Purdue’s pass rush.

Senior safety Landon Feitcher, who has 23 tackles this season, and senior linebacker Sean Robinson, who has 21 tackles and 2 sacks, lead Purdue’s defense.

Purdue will blitz SIU’s quarterback Mark Iannotti often. Seven players on the Purdue defense have recorded sacks this season.

The Boilermaker’s rush defense is No. 79 in the FBS. If Agnew can run the ball like he has in the first three games, he could find himself with 100 plus yards rushing for the fourth time this season. If the SIU running game gets going early, the Salukis could be on their way to a 4-0 start and just the third victory of a MVFC team over a Big Ten opponent.

Despite SIU facing an FBS team the Salukis have a great chance to pull off an upset. Purdue and SIU are more even talent wise than the naked eye would suggest.

The Salukis can play with no pressure. A loss doesn’t spell disaster for SIU, but it does for Purdue. If the Salukis win it’s a huge boost in momentum leading up to the start of MVFC play.

A win Saturday would speak volumes to just how good the Salukis can be this season.

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

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