Saturday equals matchup against playoff hopefuls

Saturday equals matchup against playoff hopefuls

By Terrance Peacock

Although the SIU football team is clicking at the right moment, winning three of its last four games; so is the Salukis’ upcoming opponent, which has done just the same.

The Missouri State University Bears’ overall record of 4-6 may jump out as inferior, but MSU holds a 4-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference record, which is tied for second.

This is not just a must-win game for the Salukis, but for the Bears as well, who also have playoff aspirations. Coach Dale Lennon said the game would be very emotional with so much on the line for both teams.


“If you are talking playoffs and the other team is talking about playoffs, then you are both playing pretty good football,” Lennon said. “It’s going to be very heated, emotional and everything-on-the-line type of game. I’m not sure if the fans understand the importance of this next game. This is a big, big game for us and there is a lot riding on it.”

Many people may doubt that the Salukis will even remain in the playoff picture with the loss of their senior starting quarterback Kory Faulkner, but Lennon said freshman Ryan West might have hushed some critics with Saturday’s performance.

“Ryan had a good start,” Lennon said. ” That’s exactly what you want from an individual in that situation. He drove down the field, got some touchdowns, and took some hits. There were some growing pains that were there, but that’s what you expect from a freshman quarterback starting. We’re just looking at the improvement, which is what we’re mainly focusing on as of now.”

Last week against Western Illinois University, West became the first Saluki quarterback to lead SIU to a win in his first career start since former quarterback Chris Dieker did in 2008. West will look to continue his winning ways Saturday at Saluki Stadium, a place where SIU has won only once all season.

Although SIU holds a 1-3 record at home, considering the opponents the Salukis have faced at Saluki Stadium, that record could be a little deceiving.

“The three (Football Championship Series) teams we have lost to at home, their combined record is 25-2, so it’s a little bit of whom you’re playing,” Lennon said. “So that road game, home game nonsense needs to stop.”

With the Salukis facing back-to-back quality opponents the next two weeks, SIU will have to handle its business, and do so at home. Lennon said the home crowd needs to come out in full force.


“Any time you are playing at home, the more people who are in the stands, the better our chances of success,” Lennon said. “The players love it when the fans are there making noise. That’s a key ingredient for home field success.”

Saluki fans will need to show up and show out, because Saturday’s game will be no cakewalk.

“You look at (Missouri State’s) schedule, and most of their losses were close games,” Lennon said. “They have a lot of potential and skill. They’re a good team.”