Rushing attack key to Salukis’ success

By Terrance Peacock

As SIU gets set to face its toughest test this season, one thing is certain: The running game powers the Salukis.

The Salukis have outgained their opponent on the ground in each of the team’s four wins. In Saturday’s win against Northern Iowa, SIU outrushed the Panthers 177 yards to 37.

Junior running back Malcom Agnew has flourished in his first season wearing maroon and black with his shiftiness and big-play ability. Agnew ranks fourth in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 86.8 rushing yards per game and sixth in the conference with 99.0 all-purpose yards per game.


He has recorded three 100-yard rushing games this season and has run for at least 97 yards in all of SIU’s wins. In contrast, he has been held under 60 yards in SIU’s losses.

There is no doubt Agnew deserves a lot of credit for how well this season’s offense has played, but Coach Dale Lennon said the core of running backs and the offensive line deserves credit as well.

“Malcom is a good running back,” Lennon said. “We have a good scheme for him, and we complement him with Tay Willis and Ken Malcome. Both of them aren’t too far behind. I don’t like to think of it as having a No. 1 back. All three of those guys are critical for our success. A lot of credit has to go to the offensive line, which I think has vastly improved.”

Much acknowledgement goes to the run defense as well. SIU has made opposing backs a non-factor all season.

Thanks to the run defense, the Salukis held Northern Iowa under 40 yards rushing; the Panthers were averaging 168 yards rushing for the season. UNI’s David Johnson was held to 19 yards with an average of 1.7 per carry. Johnson was second in rushing in the MVFC going into the game with an average of 138.2 yards per game.

SIU ranks second in the MVFC and fourth in the nation in rushing defense, giving up an average of 84.9 yards per game on the ground. The Salukis’ next opponent, North Dakota State, leads the conference and is 21st in the nation in rushing offense.

Saturday will be a battle at the line of scrimmage, and whoever wins the battle up front will most likely come away with the win.


Lennon said North Dakota State’s offense will present a tough matchup, but the Salukis are ready for the challenge.

“Every offense is different,” Lennon said. “What you want to do is shut them down. You want to get them into manageable downs when you have a defensive advantage. That’s the challenge with the Bison.”

Despite winning the last two games on the road against top-10 ranked opponents, Lennon said there is no room for the Salukis to be cocky.

“Our backs are up against the wall,” he said. “We are coming out fighting. We are coming out in survival mode. I don’t know how you can be overconfident when you are just trying to survive.”

Terrance Peacock can be reached at [email protected]

or 536-3311 ext. 256.