Saluki football players must have a good memory and not take the Indiana State Sycamores for granted this weekend, regardless of its winless record.
Last year, the Sycamores came into Saluki Stadium stumbling, but then proceeded to beat the Dawgs 22-14. Saluki head coach Nick Hill wants no part of that same scenario this time around in Terre Haute.
“It’s a tough league,” Hill said.
That was shown last week when the Sycamores got clobbered 56-6 by South Dakota. The Coyotes ran up 705 yards against the Sycamores.
Indiana State quarterback Issac Harker was 17-for-25 for 154 yards passing, and ran for 23 yards, so he could be a problem for the Dawgs. Harper was also the Sycamore’s starter in this past season’s ISU upset, so he can occasionally have an exceptional game.
Just a few games before getting their behinds kicked by South Dakota, the Indiana State ran up 400-plus yards in getting beat by a FBS foe Liberty in overtime. So, there is reason for Hill to be cautious.
“Harker is a gamer,” Hill said. “He has a strong arm and was very mobile against our rush last year in the homecoming game.”
Of course, almost every team was good against the 2016 Saluki team’s pass rush.
This year, however, the Dawgs have been pretty decent at squelching opponent’s passing. At least they have been decent compared to 2016. That year, the Dawgs’ team was at the bottom of the MVFC as far as pass defense. This season it has moved up to the middle of the MVFC pack — currently sitting in the sixth spot.
The Salukis should be able to pass and run against the undersized Sycamore defensive linemen. The Trees give up 454 total yards a game — 314 in the air and 159 on the ground.
SIU leads the nation in least number of sacks allowed by an FCS team, so look for the Dawgs to pass in order to set up their run game. SIU’s offensive line outweighs the Sycamore’s defensive line by about 60 pounds per man.
But Hill says to not let the Trees’ size fool you.
“They are an aggressive defense,” Hill said.
Look for SIU to run some misdirection plays on the ground and in the air.
Look for Indiana State to defensively come at SIU with two great linebackers — Jonas Griffith and Katrell Moss. Griffith leads the Sycamores with 49 tackles in six games and Moss has 43. Third on the tackle list is cornerback Rondell Green with 35.
Nevertheless, the game will be won on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. If the bigger Dawgs win that battle, then they should come away with their second MVFC victory. If not, then Hill will come away with a big headache.