Daily Egyptian

Salukis take two-game MVFC win streak to South Dakota

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Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

Ryan Michalesko

Ryan Michalesko

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Nathan Dodd

Coming off a 45-24 victory at Indiana State University, the SIU football team prepares for a tough road matchup with No. 7 University of South Dakota.

The Salukis attempt to overtake a nationally ranked opponent for a second time this season. Doing so will give SIU its third Missouri Valley Conference win in a row.

The South Dakota Coyotes (6-1, 3-1 MVFC) are coming off their first loss of the season, falling to the Illinois State Redbirds over the weekend.

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Illinois State pulled off a 37-21 win over the Coyotes one week after falling to the Salukis in Carbondale.

In 2016, SIU defeated USD at Saluki Stadium by a touchdown in a 35-28 victory.

“They [SDU] do a great job,” SIU head coach Nick Hill told reporters at his weekly press conference. “It’s a well-executed offense. They have a lot of playmakers and a lot of speed, and they do a good job of running the football, too.”

Stopping playmakers and offensive outbreaks are strengths of the Saluki defense over the past two weeks, holding their last two opponents to a combined 31 points.

In those two games, SIU’s defensive efforts forced Illinois State and Indiana State to turn the football over a combined nine times.

“Turnover margin is going to be a big key to this game,” Hill said. “They’ll say it, we’ll say it. That’s the No. 1 key to victory for us.”

The second-year head coach said that the Coyotes have only turned the ball over three times this season, and Illinois State’s ability to force USD turnovers were a key component in securing a victory.

USD’s dynamic offense features the top passer in the league — senior quarterback Chris Streveler — with 2,305 passing yards for the season and a 166.9 efficiency rating.

“Streveler still had a big day, but [Illinois State] was able to hit him and sack him a couple times,” Hill said. “You’re not going to stop [Streveler]. You’re not going to stop their offense completely.”

Part of Streveler’s success as a passer includes his ability to spread the ball to multiple members of the offense and mix effective passing with a steady run game.

Streveler leads the Coyotes in rushing yards and has the luxury of handing the ball off to two different explosive running backs — junior Michael Fredrick and freshman Kai Henry.

“The thing that is separating Streveler, in my opinion, is that he has been really accurate with the deep ball,” Hill said. “Earlier in his career he wasn’t as accurate. Hopefully, he’s a little bit off on Saturday and some of those are incompletions.”

SIU’s confident secondary will look to make momentum-changing plays against USD’s star quarterback, who threw his first two interceptions of the season last week in Bloomington-Normal.

“I feel really good about our secondary,” Hill said. “I wouldn’t trade them for anybody. A lot of things lead to turnovers—pressure on the quarterback, being disruptive, getting people off their timing and creating chaos.”

Asides from three interceptions in last week’s win, SIU received another strong performance from junior starting quarterback Sam Straub.

Straub completed 30 of his 46 passing attempts for 352 yards and three TD’s against Indiana State.

Coach Hill explained that Straub’s success can be attributed to the play of the offensive line and the lack of pressure that the junior QB has had to face from pass rushers.

“We’ve allowed three sacks all year,” Hill said. “Our tackles are playing really well in pass protection. Our backs are good in protection, and Sam does a great job of getting the ball out.”

Hill said that senior offensive tackles Austin Olsen and Devondre Seymour are playing the best football of their careers.

The statistics have proved how well the offensive line has performed for Hill this season. Staub has thrown for an MVFC-high 20 touchdowns with 1,862 passing yards while pushing near a 60-percent completion rate.

A win on Saturday will give the Salukis their fifth win of the season — one higher than last season’s total.

“The next one will be big, just to get to five wins, but our goals are not five wins,” Hill said. “It’s our goal because it’s the next win on the schedule, but we laid out our goals at the beginning of the year, and those are our expectations.”

The Salukis game against the Coyotes Saturday takes place in the DakotaDome in Vermillion, South Dakota. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Sports reporter Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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