Saluki Football edges closer to national rankings, playoff consideration

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    Oct. 13, 2013

    By Scott Gierman

    CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - On Saturday, the Salukis made a little bit of history as they knocked off top-10 teams in consecutive weeks for the first time in school history. More importantly, with the latest win over No. 4 Northern Iowa, SIU is starting to make a strong case to join the top 25 polls and building a resume for a potential playoff bid. Here are a few notes and observations from the game.

    1. In each of the last two weeks, SIU has built a first half lead only to see its opponent come back and tie the game in the third quarter. Earlier in the season, the Salukis let early leads slip away against Illinois and Youngstown State. Coach Lennon has been quick to point out the last two weeks that the experience from being in that situation in early season losses has helped his team battle back to win.

    2. The Salukis have played four teams ranked in the top 25 this season, and two of those games have gone into overtime. In those four games combined versus ranked opponents, SIU and its opponents have been separated by a total of four points at the end of regulation.

    3. Speaking of overtime, the UNI game was the Salukis' second overtime contest of the year. Entering the season, SIU had played three overtime games in the last 10 years.

    4. While the passing game has been successful all year, a steady running game helped SIU control the clock on Saturday. SIU outrushed UNI by a margin of 177-37 yards, and Malcolm Agnew turned in his third 100-yard effort of the season. In all four of Southern's wins, it has outgained its opponent on the ground. Agnew has run for at least 97 yards in all of those wins and has not topped 60 yards in any of the Salukis' losses.

    5. Southern Illinois' offense ran 81 plays compared to UNI's 50 plays in the game. That is by far the largest disparity SIU has had in that statistical category this season. The 81 plays are the second-most the team has run this season behind only the 96 plays run in a double-overtime shootout against Eastern Illinois' fast-break offense.



    6. Once again, SIU added a couple more creative plays to the offense and was able to execute them in crucial situations. On the final play of the third quarter, the Salukis ran a reverse to wide receiver John Lantz who set his feet and threw a 22-yard completion to MyCole Pruitt to set up a go-ahead field goal. Then, after running some read option plays throughout the game, SIU called a traditional option that resulted in a pitch to Agnew for what proved to be the game-winning score in overtime. Both plays were called at the right time and appeared to catch the Panthers off guard.

    7. While everyone will remember Bryan Presume standing up David Johnson in the backfield on fourth-and-one to end the game, don't forget the defense stepping up on third down as well. The Panthers converted only 3-of-12 third down chances in the game. Some of those stops were the result of UNI committing unforced errors, but the SIU defense deserves credit.

    8. UNI punted on each of its first five drives of the first half. Northern Iowa ran a total of five plays in Saluki territory prior to the fourth quarter and did not enter the red zone until its final drive of regulation.

    9. With two more touchdown passes on Saturday, Kory Faulkner now has 17 in the first seven games of the season, which is one more than he had in 18 career starts entering this season. He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in five games this season after accomplishing the feat only three times prior to 2013.

    10. Saturday's crowd of 16,423 was the fifth largest in the history of the UNI-Dome, which is known as one of the loudest facilities in the FCS. Being able to capture a road win in front of large opposing crowds in consecutive weeks on two vastly different playing surfaces should be a confidence builder for SIU.

    The Salukis have spoiled homecoming for South Dakota State and UNI in each of the past two weeks, but they will face their toughest test with this week's Homecoming game at Saluki Stadium against No. 1 North Dakota State. You don't want to miss it!