Salukis bend but don’t break

By Terrance Peacock

Although the SIU football team came up short Saturday, dropping their season opener against Illinois 42-34, I predict the Salukis may have gained some new fans with their resilient performance.

Despite the loss, the Salukis showed us when their backs are against the wall, they don’t shrivel up and die, they rise to the occasion and keep fighting until the play clock hits all zeroes.

There were two instances throughout the course of the game when it looked like the Illini were going to walk away with an easy win.


The first took place late in the second quarter, when Illinois drove the field and scored a touchdown with 17 seconds left in the half to take a 25-7 lead into halftime. Their second chance came late in the third quarter, when the Illini returned an SIU kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to increase their lead to 39-17.

In both cases, the Salukis could have given up. No one expected them to beat Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Illinois anyway. They could have traveled back to Carbondale content with being 0-1 and began preparing for Saturday’s Eastern Illinois game.

But instead, the Salukis showed heart. The same heart SIU showed in 2012 when the team won three straight games after starting the season 2-3 to crawl back into playoff contention. The same heart the Salukis will need throughout this season to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Salukis showed us that fans should never count them out, because they never count themselves out.

The Fighting Illini wasn’t the only opponent SIU faced on Saturday. SIU also battled against the heat.

The temperature reached 95 degrees Saturday with a heat index of 108. The heat played a huge factor, with one of the officials being rushed to the hospital midway through the game because of heat exhaustion.

Senior linebacker Brian Presume said he even had to take himself out of the game a couple of times because of the heat. That didn’t stop him from recording a team high 10 tackles Saturday.


The heat may have also played a role in the Salukis’ lackluster performance in the first half Saturday.

The offense struggled in the first half. The Salukis converted only five first downs in the half with 84 passing yards and 28 yards on the ground. The first half of Saturday’s game looked like a repeat performance from a very inconsistent 2012 offense.

But something changed in the second half and things started clicking.

Faulkner started spreading the ball around to his playmakers and finished the afternoon throwing for 312 yards with three touchdown passes. Faulkner’s 312 passing yards set a school record for most passing yards in a season opener.

Coach Dale Lennon was impressed with his quarterback’s resiliency.

“Kory Faulkner played a gutsy game,” Lennon said. “He kept pulling himself off the turf. He was playing hurt and didn’t want to come out. That’s what you want from your quarterback: a guy that the team can rally around.”

The defense forced two turnovers in the second half, including an interception by sophomore safety D.J. Cameron that led to a Saluki touchdown and recorded five sacks.

If it wasn’t for Illinois sophomore defensive back V’Angelo Bentley’s 100-yard kickoff return touchdown in the third quarter, the outcome of the game could have been in SIU’s favor.

The Salukis’ relentless comeback fell just short, but if anything was taken away from their performance, it’s that a lead against SIU is never safe. The Salukis have a down, but never out, mentality. They need this mentality to navigate through a tough schedule and reach the playoffs.