While the SIU football team hasn’t started the year as well as it hoped to, Saturday’s contest with Missouri State University marks a new beginning of sorts for the team.
Coach Dale Lennon has preached that teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference can “throw the records out,” as no conference team has played another this season, so each of the conference’s 10 teams stand on even ground with the rest of the pack.
The Salukis (1-2) will look to tack on a second-straight win after Saturday’s 35-14 Southeast Missouri State University defeat, and while Missouri State (0-3) is yet to get a win, junior quarterback Kory Faulkner said the Bears have been battle tested.
“Missouri State’s 0-3, but at the same time they’ve played two top 25 teams, so you can’t put a whole lot of stock into it,” Faulkner said. “We’re 1-2, and I think we’re a better football team than that. Conference play can get pretty crazy; anything can happen. We’ve just got to come prepared.”
Missouri State has dropped games to No. 20 Louisville and No. 15 Kansas State this season, so the look of their winless record can be deceiving.
Faulkner said a major positive for the team’s preparation in practice is that Missouri State plays the same base defense as the Salukis, three down linemen and four linebackers.
“They are going to run about the same defense that they ran on us last year (a 20-18 Saluki win Sept. 24),” Faulkner said. “I think the preparation will be good for us. The fact that we play a similar defense is good for both sides of the ball.”
The Bears also run a spread offense similar to what the Salukis faced earlier this season against Eastern Illinois University. That should be a positive for the team’s game plan, so long as the defense can contain junior quarterback Ashton Glaser. Glaser has passed for 719 yards this season, good for fourth in the conference.
“(Glaser) is pretty athletic. He’s mobile,” Lennon said at his weekly press conference Monday. “He’s made some guys who had clear shots miss and then got positive yards out of it. What we’re going to try to do is bring pressure and force him into some decisions where hopefully he makes some poor decisions and allows us to take advantage of it.”
Glaser has thrown four interceptions on the year, third most in the conference. If the Saluki defense were to pick the quarterback off, it would be the defense’s first interception of the season.
A Saluki win would be a major momentum push as the team heads into the thick of conference season. Sophomore tight end MyCole Pruitt said the Salukis need to continue playing up to the level of competition in conference to be successful.
“It’s definitely a strong conference,” Pruitt said. “The defending national champions (North Dakota State University) are in it. We’ve just got to step up our game and play at the same level that all the other teams in the conference are playing at.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.