Salukis look for first win against Minutemen

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

Southern travels to the University of Massachusetts this weekend in a matchup where both teams will be searching for their first win of the season.

The Salukis are hoping to improve after the defense gave up 529 yards of total offense against SEMO in the Dawg’s 44-26 loss last Thursday.

“For us, it’s about getting better from week one to week two,” head coach Nick Hill said. “When you put on the film [versus SEMO] there’s obvious room for improvement for our football team. I thought there were some positive things, and we have to continue to build on the things we did well.”

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The Minutemen are also coming off a performance where their defense gave up 554 yards of total offense against Rutgers in their 48-21 loss.

“They’re going to want to clean things up from the first week, too, and we have to expect for those things to be cleaned up and get their best effort,” Hill said.“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to go on the road and play our best football.”

Looking back to last week and how the defense performed, Hill said the defense needs to be more disruptive coming into this matchup.

“We’ve gotta be more disruptive, we’ve gotta make plays at the defensive line,” Hill said, “we’ve got to find ways to put pressure on the quarterback.”

Southern will be playing a UMASS squad who has an all new coaching staff under head coach Walt Bell.

I know Coach Bell is building a program and is an excellent coach,” Hill said. “We expect them to come out and play hard, and they’re looking for their first win.” 

As far as the offensive side of the ball, Saluki fans were able to see sophomore quarterback Stone Labanowitz in his first start, and Hill said Labanowitz gave the team a chance to win last week.

“I thought he gave us a chance,” Hill said. “We didn’t win the football game, and that’s how you’re graded as a quarterback. There’s probably eight to 12 plays that he has to make better decisions on, just getting us in the right protections, having total control and command out there.”

As far as how Labanowitz has responded to the loss, Hill said he took it personally but has already started making the corrections the staff has pointed out to him.

“He’s hard on himself but has a good outlook on things,” Hill said. “He’s the first person to take ownership for something, even throwing the ball down on the goal line, he’s not looking for excuses. Just some footwork things he has to clean up. We practiced last night, and he’s diving into those things and even took a step last night on some little things we asked him to do with his footwork. That will help him with the timing of things.”

Expect senior running back D.J. Davis to be getting the bulk of the rushing opportunities again this game.

In the game against the Redhawks, Davis carried the ball 22 times for a rushing total of 129 yards.

“It’s hard to take D.J. Davis out of the game,” Hill said. “If D.J. is healthy and feels ready to go for the series, it’s hard to tell nine not to go in the game.”

If the defense can be disruptive, and Labanowitz and Davis can give the Dawgs a chance to win again, it will be an interesting game.

SIU (0-1) will take on FBS opponent UMASS (0-1) in Amherst on Saturday with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m.

Adam Warfel, Sports Editor, can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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