The 2017 Saluki Football team is on a pigskin cusp after the Salukis were dominated by Missouri Valley Football Conference mate South Dakota State 49-14.
It was the tale of two halves for the slumping Dawgs, which have now lost three in a row, including two consecutive in Valley play.
Two weeks ago, the Dawgs lost a game it could have won against Northern Iowa by making mistakes when they had possession of the ball in the Panther red zone. In Saturday’s fiasco, the Jackrabbits didn’t allow the Salukis any opportunities to get in the game.
“They (SDSU) won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” said Saluki head coach Nick Hill. “There is no excuse for giving up that many rushing yards (368). When you make it that easy for anyone, it’s going to be a long night.”
SIU’s defensive line could not stop South Dakota’s runs between the tackles or protect the edge on sweeps. There were few defensive tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage as the defensive line was consistently pushed five yards off the ball as the Jacks scored on its first five possessions for a 35-0 halftime lead.
“The game was over in the first half,” said Hill. “We couldn’t stop them and couldn’t do anything on offense to get the momentum back to make it a shootout.”
In fact, the only shooting SIU did was aimed at their own foot. Two of the Salukis first three drives went three and out and the third ended with an interception.
“I have no excuses for my play (179 yards passing, one touchdown and two interceptions.),” Saluki starting quarterback Sam Straub said. “And we as a team just got physically dominated.”
Other factors leading to the blowout may have been hyper-motivation by a Jack team that lost a disappointing match the week before, and also injuries to many key Saluki players.
SIU was without defensive tackle Malik Haynes, tight end Jake Varble for the game and during the game starting cornerback Tory Lewis was also injured.
“We came out tonight and played as near perfect in the first half as I have ever seen us play,” said South Dakota head coach John Stiegelmeir.
The Jackrabbits’ running game was nearly flawless. Running back Brady Mengarelli had been averaging about 60 to 70 yards rushing per game, but he zoomed for 220 yards and two touchdowns against the seemingly helpless Saluki defensive line.
“I don’t think South Dakota State was any more special than, say, Memphis,” said Straub. “We just did not play our game.”
Now the Dawgs have to get ready for its homecoming opponent Illinois State Redbirds. That kickoff is at 2 p.m. at Saluki Stadium.