Secondary off to rocky start

Secondary off to rocky start

By Terrance Peacock


So far this season the Saluki offense has been on fire, but the defense has a little catching up to do.

The Salukis are third in the Missouri Valley Conference and tied for 30th in the nation in total offense with an average of 444.2 yards per game. However, the Salukis have given up an average of 296.8 passing yards per game, which is 114th in the country.


Quarterbacks have been able to feast off of SIU’s secondary this season. The Salukis are giving up too many completions downfield and have failed to come up with a big stop when they need it most.

Twice this season the Saluki defense has allowed a quarterback to throw four passing touchdowns in a single game.

SIU is surrendering 27.8 points per game this season, and although the offense is averaging 33 points a game, it’s hard to beat quality opponents when the opposing offense is putting up almost four touchdowns per game on the defense.

Coach Dale Lennon said the defense must improve.

“We talked about it on Sunday, and the thing that was disappointing was the short yardage defense on Saturday and how we weren’t able to get the stops when we need them,” Lennon said. “We just have to be more sharp on assignments and have confidence in what we’re doing.”

Although the passing defense has not been up to par with Lennon’s expectations, the running defense has performed at a high level through the season’s first five games.

SIU ranks second in the conference and eighth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 93.2 rushing yards per game.


Opposing running backs have struggled to find a rhythm against the Salukis this season, which can be credited to how dominant SIU’s front seven has been.

The Salukis are tied for 23rd in the football championship series with seven tackles for loss per game.

The rushing defense will face a stiff test Saturday facing South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner, one of the leading rushers in the FCS this season.

The junior leads the MVFC and is third in the nation with 746 rushing yards in five games. Zenner is averaging 149.2 yards per game, which ranks fourth in the FCS.

“He’s fast,” Lennon said. “He also runs like a fullback. He could run you over, and then if he gets a step on you, he is flying out of the gate. So he has a really good combination.”

Saturday’s matchup is a must-win for SIU. If the Salukis leave Brookings, S.D., with a loss, then they will find themselves in a very deep hole to climb out of.

With Northern Iowa and North Dakota State looming, SIU will have to remember to concentrate on what’s right in front of them, which is South Dakota State.

“We just have to beat (South Dakota State),” Lennon said. “And I’m sure that’s their game plan too. The last five weeks, unfortunately, we haven’t found that last play that we need to carry us over, and that’s what we have to find.”

If a few plays throughout the season went the Salukis’ way, they would be looking at a 4-1 record and not a 2-3 record facing virtually a must-win.

There is still a lot of football to be played this season, and Lennon said his team must remain resilient.

“Nobody has thrown in the towel,” he said. “If anything, I think this team has shown that they have that fighting spirit. The best thing for us is that we have another opportunity to show that we are a good team against South Dakota State.”

Terrance Peacock can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 256.