Winning string broken, SIU mindset on Northern Iowa prior to long-awaited bye

Junior Ro Elliott rushed for 100 yards in last Saturday’s SIU loss at South Dakota. (Photo by

By Dan Verdun

With its five-game winning streak broken, Southern Illinois next approaches one more hurdle in the Missouri Valley Football Conference before finally arriving at its long-awaited bye week.

“Down the stretch you’ve got to win games,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said. “Our mindset has to be on this game, not how we feel during the bye week.”

Last Saturday, the Salukis relinquished a 21-10 halftime lead and lost 27-24 at South Dakota. It was the Coyotes’ first conference win.

After reviewing the game film with his coaching staff, Hill said, “It was a good football game that we felt like we let get away. They got the momentum in the game, and we weren’t able to answer. It’s time for us to grow and respond.”

The loss dropped SIU out of a first-place Missouri Valley tie with South Dakota State, the nation’s top-ranked team.

“The margin in our league is pretty small, and it was in those five games that we won as well,” Hill said.

As a result of its loss, SIU fell six spots in the Stats Perform FCS poll to No. 20.

The Salukis (5-3 overall, 4-1 in the MVFC) return home to Carbondale to face Northern Iowa (4-4, 3-2).

This week’s opponent

After a sluggish 0-3 start, Northern Iowa has won four of its last five games.

The Panthers, riding a two-game winning streak, have really tightened up defensively. After surrendering 38 points a game in those first three losses, UNI has yielded a 17.6 points-per-game average.

“They’ve always been great on defense,” Hill said. “Coach (Mark) Farley is a defensive-minded guy.”

Hill also noted UNI’s “big, physical defensive line” frees up its “talented linebackers.”

Those linebackers are led by redshirt senior Spencer Cuvelier, tops on the team in tackles (69), tackles for loss (4.5), pass breakups (4) and sacks (3).

The Panther running game features the one-two punch of Dom Williams (562 yards, 9 TDs) and Vance McShane (486 yards, 1 TD).

Quarterback Theo Day has completed 63 percent of his passes. The 6-foot-5, 231-pound redshirt junior has 14 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.

“(He has) elite arm strength,” Hill said of Day. “He always keeps his eyes down the field. A lot of their explosive plays come from that.”

(Kickoff: 2 p.m.; TV: ESPN3; Radio:

Key matchup to watch

SIU pass rush vs. UNI offense

Southern Illinois has relied on a pass rush this fall that leads the FCS with 29 sacks, ranking third-best in all of Division I football.

“Pressuring the quarterback is as good a team defense as you can have,” said Hill, a former record-setting QB himself.

What’s at stake?

After stubbing its toe at South Dakota, SIU can ill afford another loss in its quest to return to the playoffs.

Quick hits

The Salukis will miss tight end Tyce Daniel for “the foreseeable future,” Hill said. Daniel has been wearing a sling while the SIU medical staff continues to evaluate the senior, who has 10 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown this fall . . . SIU’s nine games prior to its bye is the longest such stretch in the country . . . Saturday’s game is the annual SIU “Blackout Cancer” event.

One response to “Winning string broken, SIU mindset on Northern Iowa prior to long-awaited bye”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: