During his four months as a quarterback with the Green Bay Packers in 2012, Nick Hill said he learned about the value of completions.
Now in his second season as the Southern Illinois head coach, Hill shared that same value with his own quarterbacks.
“You’re never going to get in trouble for a completion,” he said. “I don’t care if it goes for negative 2 yards. It was caught by a playmaker on the perimeter. Eventually we have playmakers who will make that guy miss. Next time, it will go for a 15-yard gain, or we take our shots in one-on-one matchups.”
Both scenarios worked beautifully last weekend for SIU junior quarterback Sam Straub. He zinged the ball to the perimeter with regularity to speedy playmaker D.J. Davis and also heaved it deep for gains of 27 (to Darrell James), 48 (to Connor Iwema) and 73 (to Raphael Leonard).
The result was a 42-7 rout of Missouri Valley Football Conference rival Illinois State and a 368-yard, four-touchdown day for Straub.
“A lot of (early) completions were quick passes like screens and hitches,” Straub said. “Getting in a rhythm like that really helped.”
Straub ended the day 22-for-34 passing and also rushed the ball 10 times for 45 yards. His effort helped Straub earn co-MVFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“Sam did a good job of picking the right spots and being accurate with the football,” Hill said.
Straub and the Salukis (3-3, 1-2 MVFC) get a chance to build on their big victory with Saturday’s matchup in Terre Haute, Ind., against winless Indiana State (0-6, 0-3).
To keep the momentum going, Straub said his team has to treat the game just like they did a 21-0 halftime lead against Illinois State.
“When you get up like that, you’ve got to keep pushing,” he said. “I was happy about just being smart with the ball. I got one completion, then another and kept building on that.”
Southern Illinois (3-3, 1-2 MVFC) at Indiana State (0-6, 0-3), Saturday, Oct. 21, 3 p.m. at Terre Haute, Ind. (Game will air on ESPN3.com and www.1051vza.com)
Three key matchups
- SIU defensive line vs. ISU run game: The Salukis’ young defensive line, which includes three redshirt freshman and a sophomore starting, has allowed only one 100-yard rusher this season.
- WR Bob Pugh vs. SIU secondary: Pugh, the Sycamores’ standout senior, is averaging an eye-popping 28 yards per catch. SIU had 13 passes defended last weekend in its 42-7 win against Illinois State.
- SIU QB Sam Straub vs. ISU secondary: Straub is coming off of a 368-yard, four-touchdown game. He faces an Indiana State defensive backfield that is last in the MVFC in passing yardage allowed (295.5 yards a game).
SIU has forced 15 turnovers through six games this season. In 11 games last season, the Salukis forced only 14 turnovers.