Coming off its bye week following a close loss at home to a heated rival, Southern Illinois focused on preparations for its Missouri Valley Football Conference opener.
"We were able to practice and get a lot of young guys reps," head coach Nick Hill said at his weekly press conference Monday.
Hill and his staff viewed the bye week as a time to regroup after a 48-44 loss at Saluki Stadium to regional rival Southeast Missouri State.
"Our team meeting yesterday was just reverting back to Day One of training camp, what the fundamental things of our program are." Hill said. "That's what we have to rely on now, it's about daily improvement. Taking care of the process leads to the results that we want. If we stick to that, we have a good football team. We're going to have to go out there and earn it one week at a time."
After starting the season with a 49-10 blowout of Murray State, SIU has dropped two straight games (the loss to SEMO followed a 76-41 defeat at Ole Miss in week two).
South Dakota, Saturday's conference opponent, also sports a 1-2 record. The Coyotes' win came against Northern Colorado. South Dakota's two losses came at the hands of FBS-member Kansas State (27-24) and 13th-ranked FCS power Weber State (27-10).
"They had a bye week last week, we've both had two weeks to prepare for each other, so I'd assume there will be some wrinkles they have offensively and defensively. We have to not beat ourselves and not have those five or six critical errors that we had last week to give ourselves a chance," Hill said.
Three key matchups
- SIU defense vs. USD offense: The good news is that the Salukis are averaging 44.7 points per game. The bad news is that the Salukis are giving up 44.7 points per game. In addition, outside linebacker Cody Crider (torn ACL) and defensive back Qua Brown (knee) are both out. South Dakota enters the game averaging 309 yards a game passing.
- SIU offense vs. down-and-distance: According to Hill, South Dakota has always been a defense that thrives on big plays. "They're really active and athletic up front. They move around a lot, play a lot of line games, twists, and then their linebackers are active and do a good job tackling the football," Hill said.
- Turnovers: SIU has been bitten by the turnover bug at key times. Senior quarterback Sam Straub has thrown six interceptions in three games this season. South Dakota has forced a five fumbles (recovering three) in its three games. The Salukis can't afford to give the ball to USD in plus-territory.
Southern Illinois (1-2) hosts South Dakota (1-2), 6 p.m. Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. The game is on ESPN+ and the Saluki Radio Network.