Saluki football opens season

By Tony McDaniel

It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for all summer. The Salukis’ sports season officially begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, with the kick off of SIU vs. Taylor University at Saluki Stadium.

The Salukis find themselves in luck with their first game. Taylor is a low-profile National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics team, meaning they aren’t even associated with the NCAA.

This means Taylor isn’t able to recruit the same caliber players as SIU. So in turn, this is basically a warm-up for the Dawgs that should be an easy win.

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SIU can’t approach this game as an easy win. Just because Taylor doesn’t have as big of a program as SIU, doesn’t mean they can’t pull off an upset.

Think back to 2007 when Football Championship Subdivision’s Appalachian State University pulled off a massive upset over Football Bowl Subdivision’s University of Michigan, who was ranked No. 5 in the nation at the time.

As long as SIU approaches this game with the right mindset, it should easily be able to avoid a disaster.

Taylor is a small school from Upland, Ind., with an enrollment of 2,237 students. Taylor’s football team plays in the Mid-States Football Association. Ron Korfmacher coaches the Trojans and is in his 30th season.

In 2013, the Trojans finished 5-5 led by their 4-3 defense. The Trojans averaged 3.6 sacks a game last year, which was fourth in the NAIA. They finished in the top-20 in scoring and rushing defense last year.

SIU head coach Dale Lennon called Taylor a team similar to his own, and he is correct. Taylor brings back most of a stout defense, and on offense have a talented receiver and questions at the position of quarterback.

The 2014 edition of Taylor football will bring back six starters including two All-MFSA players in junior defensive tackle Jake Venable, and junior strong safety Adam Sauder.

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Sauder had 101 total tackles in 2013, and Venable finished with 7 sacks on the season. Junior defensive backs Dustin Wanner and Tyler Mills, who combined for 5 interceptions and 65 tackles, will also be back for the 2014 campaign.

The Salukis will face a tough defense that isn’t afraid to bring pressure on the quarterback in tonight’s game.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Trojans are in a battle for the position of starting quarterback, much like SIU was just a few weeks ago.

Senior Jonathan Keith played in 10 games last year for Taylor, completing 61.72 percent of his passes for 1,646 yards. However, Keith threw more interceptions last year than touchdowns, which if you’re new to the game of football, it’s not a good thing.

Keith’s competition for the starting spot is junior Michael Miller. Like SIU’s quarterback, junior Mark Iannotti, Miller has only attempted one pass in college.

Last season Miller played wide receiver for the Trojans catching the ball 20 times and scoring two touchdowns.

Miller is 6-feet-6-inches tall, which makes him a big offensive target to find down field. Miller is likely to see action in the passing game one way or another.

Regardless of who starts at quarterback, they will have strong protection and a great receiver to try and find in the passing game.

All five starters on Taylor’s offensive line will return in 2014, including 285-pound sophomore guard Austin Garde.

Taylor will also bring back junior wide receiver Shawn Lashbrook. Lashbrook caught 67 passes last year for 873 yards and seven touchdowns en route to a First-Team All-MSFA team award.

Despite the strong defense and experienced offensive line, the Salukis should be in a position to walk right on through to a win and a 1-0 start to the season.

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