Sept. 9, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - After a disheartening loss to Eastern Illinois in the season opener, the Saluki football team bounced back with a much better performance Saturday at Miami of Ohio, albeit a 30-14 loss.
The game was closer than the score indicated, and Southern actually out-gained its FBS opponent 349 to 336. Here's a breakdown of the performance.
1. The offensive line was infinitely better than it was just 10 days earlier. The re-vamped unit now features Toledo transfer Ethan Wirth at right tackle and Richard Wilson has moved from left tackle to right guard. Tanner Crum replaced Eric Bergman at center and had no problems with the shotgun snap. These moves seemed to stabilize the line, which opened sizable holes in the running game (154 yards and a 4.2 average) and allowed only one sack.
2. RB Mika'il McCall added two more TDs, giving him five on the season, and he is deservedly getting more touches (16 rushing attempts, 2 receptions). RB Steve Strother was more productive in fewer tries (10 rushing attempts, 3 receptions) for a total of 62 yards. WR LaSteven McKinney showed his speed by picking up 27 yards on five end-arounds. The Salukis had a nice mixture of play-calling in the running game.
Mika'il McCall has 5 TDs on the season.
3. It was a mixed bag for QB Kory Faulkner who was 19-for-34 for 195 yards. He made some excellent throws to WR David Lewis and TE MyCole Pruitt that went for big plays. Yet he made the worst throw of the game at a critical point with the score tied, 7-7, in the second quarter. Faulkner overshot a receiver and handed Redhawks' safety Pat Hinkel a 24-yard INT touchdown return. The other interception he threw was the fault of the receiver. Faulkner made a perfect toss on a deep post to McKinney, but the ball bounced off the receiver's shoulder pads and was intercepted.
5. Southern can't keep leaving points on the field in the kicking game. Three trips deep in to Miami territory yielded no points. Kicker Austin Johnson missed field goals from 42 and 33 yards. Those missed kicks were costly, because Southern's fourth quarter TD would have made the score, 24-20, and SIU would not have needed to try an on-sides kick with five minutes left in the game.
Emmanuel Souarin makes a tackle for an improved Saluki secondary.
6. The much-maligned Saluki secondary was night-and-day better than a week ago. That's not hard when you give up seven passing touchdowns in one game, but Miami has a potent passing attack, and SIU did a fine a job to limit it to 226 yards on mostly short passes and only one TD. Nick Harwell, who is one of the best receivers in college football, caught just three passes for 21 yards. Saluki S Carlton Lewis and CB Terrell Wilson combined to make 20 tackles and they kept short gains from turning into longer ones.
7. Coach Lennon said NT Kayon Swanson might play next week after missing Saturday's game for disciplinary reasons. Southern started TJ Beelen in his place, and the true freshman did not record a tackle. Another true freshman, Brandon Williams, came off the bench and made a couple stops at the nose and was active. Miami tried to assert its running game, but averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.
8. After SIU was stopped on fourth down at its own 15 late in the game, it appeared Miami was content to run out the clock and preserve its 24-14 victory. In fact, the Redhawks took a knee on second down. Then they changed their mind and ran the ball on third down, catching Southern off guard with a 16-yard TD run with 44 seconds to go in the game. That was disappointing.
9. The announced attendance was 17,725, but Saluki Stadium would have been about half full with the crowd that was on hand Saturday. I was told that Miami has a season-ticket base of approximately 3,000, which is about the same as SIU.
10. The MVFC now has three FBS wins on the season, as North Dakota State beat Colorado State, and Illinois State pounded Eastern Michigan. Last week, Youngstown State beat Pittsburgh. This is all good news for the Salukis, as the conference will clearly get multiple playoff bids.