Panthers will challenge the Salukis

By Tony McDaniel

SIU football (1-0) will tackle their first tough game of the season Saturday against Eastern Illinois University (0-1).

The Salukis are ranked 25th in the nation, the first time the team has broken into the top-25 since October 2011. The Salukis will have a fight on their hands to keep their ranking; EIU is the 14th ranked team.

Last Thursday the Salukis defeated Taylor University 45-0, a lopsided but un-surprising result considering that Taylor is just a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Association team.

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The same night Eastern played their first game of the season, a similar matchup against Football Bowl Subdivision’s University of Minnesota. The Panthers lost 42-20.

To say that Eastern is not a good football team based on the result of their first game against a Big Ten Conference opponent is simply not a fair assessment. It also isn’t a fair assessment to say SIU is a good team based on their win over Taylor.

The two openers did offer our first look at each team however, and gave a look at what kind of plays each offense and defense will run.

In the Salukis’ opener they proved they will run the ball and run it well.

The Dawgs rushed for a total of 284 yards and 3 touchdowns, which is impressive against any football team above the high school level.

Senior running back Malcolm Agnew ran for 145 of those yards, giving him a quick start on a 1,000-yards rushing benchmark for the season.

Eastern proved they could run the ball too, but from a different position.

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Junior quarterback Jalen Whitlow had 92 yards rushing to go with his 110 yards in the passing game.

Expect Eastern’s offense to be less explosive than in recent years now that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is with the New England Patriots.

Garoppolo passed for 118 touchdowns and 13,156 yards in his career as a Panther.

Eastern Illinois will run a two-quarterback offense this season with Whitlow and redshirt senior Andrew Manley.

Manley is more of a pocket passer than Whitlow. Manley was 18 for 34 with 200 yards passing and two touchdowns against the Golden Gophers. Manley ran the ball for 20 yards as well in the matchup vs. Minnesota.

It is likely that Eastern’s offense will still run a high number of plays; they totaled 96 total plays on offense against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota only ran 58 plays on offense in route to the win.

Eastern was plagued by turnovers against Minnesota’s defense. It will be interesting to see if this is something that will continue for the Panthers this season.

On defense Eastern was able to keep in the game against the Big Ten School.

They held Minnesota’s offense to 338 yards on Thursday, and trailed the FBS team by only 21 yards after three quarters.

On the other hand, SIU’s defense stifled Taylor, holding the Trojans to just 141 total yard of offense. It’s hard to say if SIU will continue to dominate on defense based on a matchup against an NAIA team, but it’s a great starting point for the Dawgs.

Saturday’s collision between EIU and SIU will be the first glimpse of what these teams can do against a Football Championship Subdivision team. In 2013 this same matchup went into double overtime, a game that the Salukis lost 40-37. The 2014 edition of SIU vs. EIU is likely to be a game that will go down to the wire again.

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

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