Daily Egyptian

SIU football looks to reclaim winning ways against Missouri State

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Junior running back Cameron Walter (22) makes a break past Missouri State senior linebacker Dylan Cole (31) during the first half of the Salukis' 38-35 loss to the Bears in Springfield, Mo. (Daily Egyptian File Photo)

Junior running back Cameron Walter (22) makes a break past Missouri State senior linebacker Dylan Cole (31) during the first half of the Salukis' 38-35 loss to the Bears in Springfield, Mo. (Daily Egyptian File Photo)

Junior running back Cameron Walter (22) makes a break past Missouri State senior linebacker Dylan Cole (31) during the first half of the Salukis' 38-35 loss to the Bears in Springfield, Mo. (Daily Egyptian File Photo)

By Nathan Dodd

Following the trouncing that SIU football received from the University of South Dakota, the Salukis return to Carbondale Saturday to face off against Missouri State University at Saluki Stadium.

Southern has a chance to claim its third victory in four contests on home turf this season. A win against the Bears will improve the Salukis’ record to .500 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, keeping SIU’s playoff hopes alive.

Missouri State (2-6, 1-4 MVFC) is in the midst of a down year but is coming off its first Valley victory against Indiana State University Saturday in Springfield, Missouri.

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In 2016, MSU edged out SIU 38-35 on a 32-yard field goal with ten seconds left in the game.

MSU’s sophomore quarterback Peyton Huslig brings a winning pedigree to the Bears’ offense. In 2016, Huslig piloted Garden City Community College to an undefeated 11-0 season, culminated by winning the NJCAA national title.

“He’s a really good runner and a good enough of a passer to beat you,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said. “You have to prepare specifically for them, and they fit his strengths.”

Despite a losing record, Hill said the Bears have played well on offense in nearly every competition this season.

“They have had a couple close ones that they didn’t win,” Hill said. “They could easily be sitting here at 4-4 like us.”

After suffering an injury in the first half at South Dakota, SIU junior quarterback Sam Straub will miss Saturday’s tilt against MSU — along with the remainder of the regular season.

“Right now it’s a broken bone,” Hill said. “It’s 4-6 weeks for that, but they want to take an extra look. There are ligaments in there that may require surgery.”

Sophomore quarterback Tanner Hearn gets his first chance to start — since joining the Salukis — Saturday against the Bears.

Hearn took the reigns of SIU’s offense at South Dakota following Straub’s injury and was intercepted four times in his relief appearance. Two of Hearn’s interceptions were returned by USD for touchdowns.

“Most people wouldn’t say this, but he did a lot of good things,” Hill said. “He’s definitely a little bit different than Sam, but you saw him make plays outside of the pocket. He extended plays with his feet.”

Despite South Dakota scoring 42 points over the weekend, coach Hill said he was happy with his team’s defensive effort against the Coyotes. USD was only able to muster 280 total yards on offense and was granted another 148 yards from Saluki penalties.

“For the entire second half, they had 81 yards of offense,” Hill said. “Our defense came away with some confidence. It’s 42 points, but if you watch the film or were at the game, that wasn’t the feel you got.”

For SIU to emerge victorious against MSU, the Salukis cannot take the Bears lightly and must bring the same defensive effort of recent weeks. Coach Hill also stated that his squad must keep turnovers to a minimum.

“It will be a battle on Saturday,” Hill said. “Coach [Dave] Steckel does a great job with those guys, and they’re well-coached. It will be a tough one for us. ”

Hill said Southern is still hopeful they can earn a bid for a playoff spot. More than likely, the Salukis must win-out the remainder of their MVFC schedule, beginning with MSU.

SIU’s matchup with MSU kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday inside Saluki Stadium, where the Salukis look to inject life into their playoff hopes.

“We have a three-game season to get to 7-4,” Hill said. “This is the biggest game of the season. Our playoffs start right now.”

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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