Salukis hope to avoid playing own worst enemy

Salukis hope to avoid playing own worst enemy
Head coach Nick HIll and the Salukis face 2016 FCS national runner-up Youngstown State in Carbondale on Saturday. (Photo by

Watching film of his team’s loss last week to Missouri State was an eye opener for Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill.

The Bears beat SIU, 36-28, in Carbondale. But the Salukis, according to Hill, also were their own worst enemy.

“We felt like we got in our own way,” Hill said. “We had seven 15-yard penalties. The last two weeks, we’re getting beat in the turnover margin 7-0. You’re just not going to beat any teams like that.”

The Salukis have an opportunity to get back on track after a two-game losing streak today when they host Missouri Valley Football Conference foe Youngstown State on SIU’s Senior Day.

The Salukis are 4-5 overall and 2-4 in conference play, the same exact record as the Penguins, who played in last year’s FCS national championship game.

“We’re still an inconsistent football team,” said Hill, whose first SIU team went 4-7 a year ago. “We’re learning a lot about how we have to get better.”

Sophomore Tanner Hearn will get another chance to show off his arm at quarterback after last month’s injury to junior starter Sam Straub. The Salukis likely will use running option Matt DeSomer as the backup.

Hearn was 13-for-22 last week for 180 yards and three passing TDs. DeSomer, meanwhile, rushed 16 times for a team-high 71 yards. He also completed nine of 12 passes for 77 yards.

“Both did good things in the game, and both will be ready to go (this week),” Hill said. “They’re two different kinds of quarterback, so they will both have their packages the next two weeks.”

The game

Youngstown State (4-5 overall, 2-4 MVFC) at Southern Illinois (4-5, 2-4), 1 p.m. in Carbondale, Ill. (Game will air on and

Three key matchups

  1. SIU WRs vs. YSU pass defense: The Salukis boast four players with at least 31 receptions and three TDs. Youngstown, meanwhile, has allowed only eight passing TDs this season and is the No. 2 pass defense in the MVFC (157.9 yards a game).
  2. YSU RB Tevin McCaster vs. SIU run defense: McCaster is second in the conference with 10 rushing touchdowns while averaging 80.8 yards a game. SIU has allowed only 11 rushing TDs in nine games.
  3. SIU secondary vs. YSU passers: Because of injuries, YSU has used three QBs this season. All of those QBs will face a stout SIU defensive backfield featuring cornerback Craig James and safety Jeremy Chinn, who ranked third and fourth in passes defended in the MVFC.

Key stat

After a four-interception debut against South Dakota, new SIU quarterback Tanner Hearn completed 59 percent of his passes against Missouri State. He tossed three TD passes and one interception.

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