Football opens season at Eastern Illinois

    Head coach Dale Lennon is 13-2 in season openers as a head coach.

    Head coach Dale Lennon is 13-2 in season openers as a head coach.
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    Aug. 27, 2012

    By John Lock

    SIU Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader | EIU Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader

    - Southern is entering its 100th year of football and 97th year fielding a team. SIU didn't field a team in 1918, 1920 and 1943 because of the respective world wars.

    - SIU and SIH will partner to hold an annual Black Out Cancer game for the next three years, raising money for a cancer treatment center in Southern Illinois. Last year's Black Out Cancer game raised more than $125,000 for cancer research in Southern Illinois.

    - Season tickets will be mailed out at the end of this week.

    - Kenneth Boatright (DL), Kayon Swanson (DL), MyCole Pruitt (TE) and Steve Strother (RS) all earned preseason first-team All-Conference honors.

    - All four preseason All-Conference selections were also selected to the College Football Performance Awards preseason watch list for their respective positions. Joe Okon and Jayson DiManche also earned spots on the CFPA linebacker watch list.

    - Seven starters return on offense from a team that ranked third in the conference in total offense. 2011 All-Conference performers MyCole Pruitt, Steve Strother (RS), and Jackson MacLachlan return for 2012.

    - Southern ranked third in the conference in rushing in 2011, averaging 183 yards per game on the ground. The Salukis averaged at least 165 yards per game on the ground for the 10th consecutive season. Mulku Kalokoh and Steve Strother return in the backfield and Iowa transfer Mika'il McCall will help spearhead the 2012 ground attack.

    - Strother accounted for three of the four longest plays for the Salukis in 2011. He ripped off a 74-yard run at Ole Miss, which was the longest play of the season for SIU. He also scored the season's first touchdown on a 62-yard rush on the second play from scrimmage in the 2011 season opener against SEMO. He also returned a kick for 56 yards against Youngstown State.

    - Quarterback Kory Faulkner returns as the starter in 2012. Faulkner started the final seven games of the season. He broke out for 334 yards passing and 378 yards of total offense--the fifth-best single-game total offense total in school history--against Illinois State in 2011. Faulkner led the Salukis to back-to-back wins to close the season.

    - Faulkner is the second-leading returning rusher, after Strother. Faulkner averaged 23.5 yards per game on the ground in 10 games last year. He's also the team's leading touchdown rusher, piling up seven rushing touchdowns on the ground last year.

    - Faulkner averaged 29.8 yards per game on the ground in the eight games in which he saw significant playing time. His career high single-game total is 70 yards against Western Illinois.

    - All seven of Faulkner's rushing touchdowns came in the final four weeks of the season.

    - Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer and the offensive staff visited Oklahoma in the offseason and installed a tempo offense. The Salukis will periodically use a no-huddle attack and push the tempo.

    - Tight end MyCole Pruitt emerged as the Salukis' go-to receiver during his redshirt freshman season in 2011. After catching four total passes in the team's first three games, Pruitt caught at least three passes in each of the team's final eight games, highlighted by an eight-catch, 124-yard performance against Youngstown State.

    - SIU returns eight of its top-ten pass catchers from 2011. After Pruitt, John Lantz is the top returning receiver. Lantz caught 26 passes last year.

    - The receiving corps also returns LaSteven McKinney and David Lewis. McKinney caught seven passes in the annual Spring Game to lead the team.

    - Lewis only caught one pass in the first seven games of 2011, but he caught 12 balls in the team's final four games.

    - Lewis and Luke Standiford are the team's top returning receivers in terms of yards per catch. Standiford averaged 16.0 yards on six catches, and Lewis averaged 14.0 yards on 13 receptions.

    - Six starters return on the defensive side of the ball. All-Conference performers Kayon Swanson and Kenneth Boatright return to lead the group.

    - Swanson and Boatright were the top two tacklers in 2011. Terrell Wilson and Joe Okon also return for 2012, meaning SIU returns its top four tacklers from a year ago.

    - Southern has a balanced defensive attack. In 2011, no one recorded more than 52 tackles, but 21 players recorded at least 11 tackles and 13 players recorded a sack.

    - Boatright led the team in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (13.5) in 2011. In the final three weeks of the season, Boatright recorded 7.5 TFLs and 2.0 sacks.

    - Boatright was named the 86th-best NFL prospect in the FCS by Phil Steele Magazine this preseason.

    - Swanson led the team in tackles (52), was second on the team in sacks (4.0) and third on the team in TFLs (9.5).

    - Swanson recorded eight tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, and two sacks against Ole Miss in 2011, earning him FCS National Defensive Player of the Week honors from the College Football Performance Awards and Beyond Sports Network.

    - Along with Swanson and Boatright, Jayson DiManche returns to a stout front seven. Swanson, Boatright and DiManche combined for 145 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in 2011.

    - DiManche is currently 19th in school record books for career tackles for loss and nine TFLs away from breaking into the top five.

    - Terrell Wilson is the only returning starter in the secondary. Wilson was second on the team in interceptions (3) and third on the team in tackles (50) last year.

    - The Salukis added a trio of FBS transfers in the secondary. Cornerback Emmanuel Souarin (Florida International) and safeties Carlton Lewis (Clemson) and Anthony Thompson (UCLA) joined the team in the fall. Souarin and Lewis earned spots at the top of the depth chart.

    - Eze Obiora takes over at defensive end opposite Boatright. Obiora takes over for Chance Coda, who started every game for the Salukis in his four-year career. Obiora recorded 16 tackles, 2.5 TFLs and one sack last year as a backup.

    - Head Coach Dale Lennon in 3-1 in season openers at Southern Illinois and 4-0 in FCS openers. His only season-opening loss at SIU came at Marshall, 31-28, in 2009. That team responded with 11 consecutive wins.

    - Overall, Lennon is 13-2 in season openers.

    - Southern has won nine of its past 10 season openers and has won 10 straight FCS openers.

    - All-time, SIU is 43-50-3 in season openers.

    - SIU last played Eastern in a season opener in 1944. In the first SIU football game in nearly two years (there was no team in 1943 because of WWII), Southern won 15-12 at McAndrew Stadium. This was the only season-opening matchup for the two schools.

    - Every special teams player returns from a year ago.

    - Steve Strother is currently the school record holder for career kick return average. Strother has averaged 27.14 yards per kick return in his career. Larry Warner is second on the list, averaging 26.93 yards per return in 2008 and 2009.

    - In 2011, Strother came within 10 yards of breaking the school record for kickoff return yards in a single season. Strother has 1,167 career kick return yards, fourth in school history. He needs 505 yards in 2012 to break the record.

    - Strother and punt returner LaSteven McKinney were both named to the preseason All-Conference teams. Strother earned first-team honors from the coaches, media and sports information directors; he also earned first-team honors from Phil Steele Magazine. McKinney earned second-team All-Conference honors as a punt returner by Phil Steele Magazine.

    - McKinney was second in the conference in punt return average in 2011, averaging 7.6 yards per return.

    - Kicker Jackson MacLachlan returns after earning honorable mention All-Conference laurels last year. He earned MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors last year after nailing a game-winner with less than a minute remaining against Missouri State.

    - Only 16 of punter Austin Pucylowski's 54 punts in 2011 were returned. He pinned the opponent inside its own 20 yard line 21 times and booted six balls over 50 yards.

    - The Salukis currently have a four-game winning streak over Eastern Illinois. In the all-time series, SIU has gone on an eight-game winning streak and a 10-game winning streak.

    - Each win in SIU's four-game winning streak over the Panthers has been by at least 15 points.

    - The Salukis were picked to finish seventh in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in the preseason poll. Since 2003, SIU has been picked to finish fifth or worse two times. Each of the previous two times (2003, 2008), SIU won a share of the MVFC title.

    - Southern Illinois didn't receive any first-place votes in the preseason MVFC poll for the first time since 2006. 2012 marks only the second time in the last nine seasons that SIU did not receive a first-place vote in the preseason poll.

    - In 2011, SIU finished tied for seventh in the MVFC. Lennon has only finished as low as seventh two other times in his career. The last time Lennon finished seventh, in 2002 with North Dakota, he guided his team to a national runner-up season the following season.

    - SIU opens on the road for the third time in the last four seasons. From 2002 through 2008, SIU opened the season on the road only once. Southern is 1-1 in road season openers since 2009, with the loss coming at FBS-school Marshall.

    - Eastern Illinois is just 2-8 at home in the last two seasons. Last year, Eastern's lone home win was the season opener against Illinois State.

    - Eastern is 5-1 in its last six home openers.

    - Eastern returns 19 starters and lost eight. The Panthers return nine of 12 credited starters on offense and seven of 12 credited starters on defense. They return all three special teams players.

    - The Panthers are in their first season under head coach Dino Babers. The Panthers head coaching job is Babers' first as a head coach. Eight of the coaches on the EIU staff are in their first season with the program.

    - Southern is entering its 100th year of football and 97th year fielding a team. SIU didn't field a team in 1918, 1920 and 1943 because of the respective world wars.

    - Southern has lost six consecutive coin tosses.

    For complete game notes, click the PDF link at the top of the page