Saluki Football must regroup for final playoff push

    Kory Faulkner left Saturday's game early in the third quarter.

    Kory Faulkner left Saturday's game early in the third quarter.
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    Oct. 20, 2013

    By Tom Weber

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saturday's Homecoming loss to No. 1-ranked North Dakota State didn't fatally damage SIU's playoff chances, however it leaves them with less margin for error, and the Salukis suddenly have a big question mark at quarterback.

    1. Dale Lennon was not asked about the severity of quarterback Kory Faulkner's hand injury during his post-game press conference, but he did describe the injury in his radio interview as "severe." With only four regular-season games remaining, the question may not be "when" Faulkner will return, but rather "if" he will make it back in time to contribute to SIU's final playoff push.

    2. How big a blow would it be to lose Faulkner for a significant amount of time? Let's put it this way -- Faulkner is having a sensational season, one of the best in history by a Saluki quarterback. He's completed 60 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He's on a pace to throw for 3,000 yards. Those impressive numbers have come against five ranked FCS teams, plus Illinois.

    3. Put it another way -- the Salukis led, 10-7, and were driving for another score early in the third quarter when Faulkner hurt his hand. He stayed in the game and threw two incomplete passes and SIU had to settle for a field goal attempt. The Salukis had 187 yards of offense with Faulkner under center. They had just 40 yards with redshirt freshman Ryan West at the helm.

    4. Everyone has heard the expression that football is a game of inches. That was true yesterday, even in a 31-10 loss for Southern. Leading, 10-7, Thomas Kinney's 48-yard field goal attempt hit the inside of the left upright and fell just shy of the crossbar. On North Dakota' State's next drive, Saluki LB Bryan Presume was flagged for offsides on a missed field goal attempt. The penalty extended the drive, and instead of coming away empty-handed, the Bison scored a touchdown on the next play. To some observers, it appeared Presume made it back on the correct side of the line before the snap.



    5. That's not to say Southern would have won the game had those plays transpired differently. NDSU's running game was unstoppable. I've seen a lot of high-major Division I offensive lines in person. The Bison front-five could play for any BCS school. They are big and athletic, and they simply manhandled SIU's front-seven.

    6. North Dakota State may be unstoppable this year in its quest for a third-straight National Championship. They don't have any glaring weaknesses. Much of the yardage their defense surrendered to SIU in the first half were the result of terrific throws by Faulkner or came on bootlegs when a play broke down.

    7. The bye week is coming at the right time for Southern. They have time to envision what an offense under West will look like. Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer is high on West, incidentally. He's a bright kid with good size, a strong arm and mobility.

    8. After playing five ranked teams to date, SIU finishes its regular season with four games against unranked opponents. That doesn't translate into automatic victories, but the Salukis at least have a realistic path to eight wins. If they get there, they will have a strong case for a playoff berth.