Wheel adds unique turn to SIU rivalry game

Wheel adds unique turn to SIU rivalry game
(Photo courtesy of SIUSalukis.com)

The most familiar opponent on the Southern Illinois football schedule has played the Salukis since 1909.

This fall, the Salukis (1-1) and Southeast Missouri have added a unique twist to the longest rivalry in SIU history – a traveling trophy.

Saturday night, the schools separated by only 45 miles and the Mississippi River will play in the newly renamed “War For The Wheel” game. The winner will take possession of an authentic ship’s wheel, which currently resides in Carbondale.

“It’s a natural rivalry,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said. “It’s good for both fan bases and the school pride of playing each other. It’s a great game that we should play every year.”

SIU, which is 10-2 in the last 12 meetings, is coming off a tale of two halves in a 76-41 loss to FBS Mississippi of the Southeastern Conference.

The Salukis piled up 38 first-half points, led by five touchdowns (four passing) from senior quarterback Sam Straub. In the second half, Mississippi used two defensive TDs to spark a 41-point outburst.

“I thought on offense, we could have kept scoring,” Hill said. “There were some opportunities there. Penalties got in the way a couple times, then lack of execution.”

While posting a 6-1 record against SEMO in the last seven years, SIU has averaged 35.4 points a game.

The Redhawks (1-1) have plenty of familiarity with SIU.

SEMO head coach Tom Matukewicz coached linebackers for seven seasons in Carbondale under former head coach Jerry Kill. During that time, Hill was the Salukis’ quarterback.

“There’s no secret that I have a ton of respect for Coach Tuke,” Hill said. “He’s a good friend of mine.”

Three key matchups

  1. SIU RB D.J. Davis vs. SEMO defense: The dynamic Davis is averaging 124 yards rushing a game and is a threat in the open field. SEMO is allowing 204 rushing yards a game.
  2. SEMO QB Daniel Santacaterina vs. SIU secondary: After allowing 448 passing yards to Mississippi, SIU faces the FBS transfer Santacaterina, who is completing 70.5 percent of his passes.
  3. SIU QB Sam Straub vs. SEMO secondary: Straub threw four first-half TD passes at Mississippi. SEMO ranks 113th out of 116 FCS teams in passing yards allowed.

Game details

Southeast Missouri at Southern Illinois, 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 in Carbondale, Ill. Game will air on ESPN Plus.

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