Football wins at home
The Salukis (1-2) had control of the game almost immediately and scored on a 32-yard run by junior running back Mika’il McCall at the first quarter’s 12:33 mark. Coach Dale Lennon said the fast start was extremely important for SIU to set the game’s tempo.
“We needed a quick score. That was exactly what I was hoping for, for us,” Lennon said. “It’s exactly what we needed, as far as confidence.”
The Redhawks’ first drive was stopped quickly as a third-down sack by senior linebacker Jayson Dimanche forced the Redhawks to punt. The Saluki defense had success against SEMO for most of the game, and it allowed only one first down throughout the entire first half.
“I feel like the coaches had a good plan in our pressure and good timing,” senior defensive-end Ken Boatright said. “Jayson DiManche is just a beast out there. One first down (allowed) in the first half, you can’t be too disappointed about that.”
DiManche finished the game with six tackles for SIU.
The second Saluki drive started with a pair of screen passes to sophomore wide receiver LaSteven McKinney. After some success in the short game, Lennon called for junior quarterback Kory Faulkner to fake the screen and throw to senior wide out David Lewis downfield. The play worked perfectly, and Lewis caught a wide-open 39-yard touchdown with just under 10 minutes of play left in the first quarter to set the score at 14-0. It was Lewis’ first touchdown of the season.
“Kory has some very good ability,” Lennon said. “He’s talented and learning the game. And now, his comfort level with the offense is probably what you are seeing more than anything else.”
Faulkner was on target all night. He finished with three touchdowns and 384 yards on 26 of 40 passing. It was the third highest single-game yard total in school history.
The Salukis started the second quarter with another score, this time from Faulkner to sophomore tight end MyCole Pruitt. Pruitt made the grab on the sideline, broke free and dove into the end zone for the score. The tight end finished the game with 121 yards on nine catches.
“(The win) definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” Pruitt said after the contest. “We all knew we could make big plays. We just had to go out and execute like we did today. We got a win, so I feel happy about it.”
The Redhawks seemed to finally muster some offense early in the third quarter when it crossed midfield for the second time of the game, but a fumble recovery by senior safety Carlton Lewis stole the momentum. The Salukis’ first offensive play that followed the fumble was a 21-yard run by McCall, but the play after resulted in McCall’s second fumble of the game. McCall finished the night with 81 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
“(Mika’il) is still learning the college game,” Lennon said. “We’re going to be patient with him. I know some of the fans would like to see him carry the ball 36 times and watch him run, but he’s still developing. You’re going to see him get better and better as the season progresses.”
McCall’s pair of scores brought his season total to eight touchdowns.
The Salukis’ most electric offensive play of the game came late in the fourth quarter, when McKinney took a screen pass from Faulkner and spun off a SEMO tackler before running upfield and cutting back inside, blowing by defenders for a 43-yard touchdown and the Salukis’ final score of the game.
“(This win) is what we all work for,” Faulkner said after the game. “It didn’t happen the first two weeks, so it’s definitely special. Any time you put up 565 yards of total offense, it’s definitely an accomplishment.”
The Salukis open conference play Saturday on the road at Missouri State. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.