Saluki football turns attention to Youngstown State for Senior Day

Saluki football players celebrate on the sidelines after their 38-31 overtime victory against Youngstown State University at the homecoming game Oct. 24, 2015, at Saluki Stadium. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

Saluki football players celebrate on the sidelines after their 38-31 overtime victory against Youngstown State University at the homecoming game Oct. 24, 2015, at Saluki Stadium. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

By Nathan Dodd

Following a disappointing loss to Missouri State Saturday, and with only two games remaining, the Saluki football look to end their season on a positive note.

The loss on Saturday marked the third conference defeat in a row that Southern has suffered and the fourth overall.

This weekend, SIU (4-5, 2-4 MVFC) is tasked with facing off against Youngstown State, the runner-up in last season’s FCS Championship.


In 2015 — the last time the two schools met at Saluki Stadium — SIU used an overtime touchdown pass from senior quarterback Mark Iannotti to take down the No. 17 Penguins 38-31.

This season YSU (4-5, 2-4 MVFC) played opponents close and only lost one game by more than seven points.

“When they play at their best, Youngstown is as good of a team as any in the league,” coach Nick Hill said. “They’ve lost a lot of close games and they are a quality opponent.”

In the loss to MSU, Southern gathered 28 points behind the split quarterback duties of sophomore Tanner Hearn and junior Matt DeSomer. Hearn threw for three touchdowns and one interception in his first career start, while DeSomer led the team with 74 yards rushing.

“We will dive into it and see who gives us the best opportunity to win the game,” Hill said. “They are two different types of quarterbacks and will both have their packages the next two weeks. Both of them will be ready to play.”

Hill said that last week was the first time that DeSomer — who also plays safety — appeared in the quarterback room to work on the offensive game plan.

“Matt only had about five days of preparation for a conference game,” the Saluki head coach said. “We have a good package that he is comfortable running and that will continue to grow moving forward.”


The Salukis allowed five plays of over 40 yards against the Bears on Saturday and face a YSU team that accumulated 66 points at Indiana State, the Penguins’ highest total this season.

“We all just have to do better,” Hill said of his defense’s recent inability to stop explosive plays. “We’ve also had 11 15-yard penalties in two games and seven of them on third down. It’s about executing the call that is made and going out and making plays.”

Through nine games this season, the Penguins have found most of their success in the running game. Youngstown ranks second in the MVFC with 1,911 yards rushing and an average of 212 yards per game on the ground with 23 touchdowns.

Junior tailback Tevin McCaster served as the leader of the YSU rushing attack this season and has amassed 727 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground

“They’re going to commit to running the football,” Hill said. “There’s no tricks. When they run the ball well, it’s because they’re executing with really good running backs which makes them tough to stop.”

The Penguins also feature a defense that has only allowed 158 yards passing and 20 points per game to opponents.

“Their staple is to play great defense,” he said. “You have to work for all of your yards. You have to make plays and some contested throws.”

The Salukis fell victim to turnovers in the last two weeks, something that Hill said the team must focus on in the next two contests. According to Hill, Southern’s seven combined turnovers against MSU and YSU were a direct correlation to the outcome of the games.

“Turnover margin is the one key thing that we have to work on,” Hill said. “We have to get turnovers and we can’t turn the ball over.”

SIU’s objective leading up to the matchup against MSU was to win the final three games of the season and claim a spot in the playoffs. The loss to the Bears removed the Salukis from a playoff bid.

Southern’s fourth loss in the MVFC declined the squad from being able to achieve a record above .500 in league play for the fourth consecutive season.

“I think we’re taking the right steps,” Hill said in regards to the future of SIU football. “We’re learning a lot about what it takes to win. The margin for error is small.”

The last home game at Saluki Stadium marks the final time that Southern’s 14 seniors will take the field in front of the home crowd. Senior Day on Nov. 11 is scheduled to kickoff at 1 p.m.

“I can’t say enough about what this senior group has done for the program,” Hill said. “They give us everything that they’ve got every single day. We’ll line up and play as hard as we ever have and look to play our best game.”

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

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