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Will the Real Slim Saluki Stand Up.

Southern Illinois had high hopes coming into the spring MVFC/FCS season. They had the bad taste of being probably the last “bubble team” left out of the playoff dance in 2019. Losing the opening game to SEMO (a playoff team) really sealed their fate.

Last fall they avenged that loss in their lone game of the autumn on a last second field goal. Now they had that “big win” sand bagged for the spring. That hit a brick wall last weekend in Grand Forks. To say they stunk it up would be a compliment. A depleted UND team, that lost a lot of stars off last year’s roster, decimated the Salukis 44-21.

What happened and which SIU team will show up Saturday?

Let’s cut through all the BS. You can’t give up 5 TO’s and win. UND scored 28 points off these give aways. It is that simple. Javon’s fumble was poor ball security. UND defender just punched it out. Next fumble same thing. I’ll give credit to UND’s DC for the corner blitz on the scoop and score. SIU QB was totally blindsided by it.

The two second half INT’s? You don’t throw into double coverage. I can’t think off the top of my head where a team is minus five in TO’s and wins. I know the Herd’s last loss was when we gave up 5 TO’s (SDSU gave up 2, so this is only a minus 3). Prediction: if the Salukis give up 5 TO’s again, we win.

They won’t. The Salukis will come ready to play.

How good are the Salukis? The spring SIU team probably had the least amount of roster departures compared to other MVFC opponents from their fall team that beat SEMO. In 2019 SIU got to be a surprise team, not this time around. The Salukis became a playoff candidate by a resurgence on the defensive side of the ball. After watching them versus the Hawks, the unit hasn’t progressed. Some of it could be attributed that SIU doesn’t have an indoor practice facility and they only got two outdoor practices in the two weeks before the UND game.

I think it is more systemic. First they lost Jeremy Chinn, the NFL defensive rookie of the year. He was 3rd in tackles even after missing two games in 2019. Next, their second leading tackler, Cody Crider had to retire after a third knee surgery. He was SIU’s Rozeboom or Hankey, roaming from sideline to sideline. Adding to these losses were the 5th, 7th and 10th leading tacklers made up of two more DB’s and the leading DE in sacks. Also Luke Giegling (best returning LB) wasn’t in the lineup versus UND. If he can’t play versus the Herd, this is a much reduced group than that faced NDSU in 2019. It showed when the Hawks ran wild in the second half (around 200 yards rushing).

Another tid bit is the DL for SIU didn’t sack a rookie UND QB once (and he isn’t a dual threat QB). I know our OL is superior to UND’s.

In a weather determined conservative game plan (it was a cold rainy game in 2019) we still ran for 246 yards. I think if UND can get 229 yards and 5.9 YPC, I don’t think there is some secret sauce the Salukis are going to cook up to stop us, especially if Luepke is back totting the pig skin.

Can SIU move Code Green at will? No!! I am going to pontificate here a little bit. One of the consistent failures of the sports media community (one of the reasons I started writing) is the failure to understand the defensive dominance of Code Green during this streak eight of nine National Titles and going 128-8.

Have you read where we pitched 12 shut outs (only 2016 didn’t produce one) in this streak, including two in the playoffs? How about 10 more games where we gave up 3? There are 3 more games where we gave up 6 (including our first NC against Sam Houston who was scoring over 37 PPG against all others coming in). Add in another 21 games giving up a sole TD (7 points), one nine pointer (UND) and 15 more at 10. Add in a one 11 pointer, a 12 pointer and 7 more 13 pointers. Folks, that’s 72 out of 136 games giving up 13 points or under. Go back and I bet the prognosticators average 7 points at least, more than this in their predictions.

The question should always be on the other team’s offense. SIU is a one dimensional team. Even with Javon, they scored one TD in 2019 against Code Green. What changed? Also our coaching staff doesn’t get enough credit for helping our teams progress over a season. 2015 started out with an inexperienced secondary on the road against a wingy-dingy Montana team. We couldn’t find our asses in a phone booth. By playoff time we held them to 7 points in the rematch.

I feel you are going to see this team progress this weekend. Does that mean a blow out? No. Last year we beat Mo. State (a one win team) only by 22-0, SDSU 23-16, SIU 21-7 and IL State 9-3. Gee a Trey Lance offense only produced 18.75 PPG in these four wins. The MVFC (listen to what coach Entz says about no gimmees week in week out in MVFC) provides the Bison with many hard fought games every year. Oh, by the way, Code Green only gave 6.5 PPG’s in these games.

Vegas has the Herd about a 20 point favorite. I think we win by at least 21. I think we are going to start to see some new dominant studs emerge this year. Go Bison.

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