Streaking Salukis aiming for more than 4-4

Streaking Salukis aiming for more than 4-4
Southern Illinois and QB Kare Lyles (3) have had plenty to celebrate the past two weeks. (Photo by SIUSalukis.com)

Two wins in a row has given the Southern Illinois football program plenty to be happy about.

There’s a 4-4 overall record heading into three games against teams with a combined 4-19 record. There’s a 2-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference record. And, yes, there’s the opportunity – should the Salukis keep winning – to earn consideration as an FCS playoff team for the first time since 2009.

But head coach Nick Hill is far from celebratory after winning six games combined over the past two seasons.

Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill

Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill

“Four wins wasn’t on any standard or goals that we had,” Hill said. “We put ourselves in a better position than we were a few weeks ago. If we want that to continue, then we need to go out there and win on Saturday. We’re 4-4, and 4-4 doesn’t get you anywhere.”

That Salukis travel to Terre Haute, Ind., this week for a noon kickoff against Indiana State (3-5, 1-3), which has stumbled to a 1-3 record over the past month.

SIU, meanwhile, has leaned on its impressive run game with the trio of powerful redshirt freshman Javon Williams Jr. (575 yards, 11 TDs), versatile senior D.J. Davis (557 yards, three TDs) and speedy freshman Romeir Elliott (395 yards, three TDs).

Hill said junior Kare Lyles will remain as the team’s starting quarterback, despite the return to health of sophomore Stone Labanowitz, who will be this week’s No. 2 QB. Lyles is 2-3 as the starter since replacing Labanowitz against UT-Martin.

Moving into playoff contention may have caught some observers off guard, but not Hill.

“It’s not a surprise,” he said. “Our leadership is as good as it’s ever been. They’ve played with the expectation that they were going to win. They come in this building wanting to get better.”

What does this game mean?

SIU can continue its winning streak and boost its FCS playoff status with a win. Beating Indiana State also will be the Saluki’s third road victory, its most in a single season since 2013.

News and notes

A victory today against the Sycamores will give SIU its first three-game winning streak since 2014 and its first three-game victory streak in the conference since 2012. … Senior safety Jeremy Chinn, the Salukis’ top NFL prospect, leads the MVFC with four interceptions. … Redshirt freshman running back Javon Williams Jr. has scored 13 total touchdowns, the most for a freshman player in the FCS this season and a freshman record at SIU. … Southern’s defense ranks fifth in the FCS with 3.5 sacks per game. … Linebacker Bryant Notree, who has been out all season after breaking his foot in the season opener, is likely to return today.

Where can I find the game?

SIU’s noon game Saturday, Nov. 2, at Indiana State will be televised by ESPN-Plus. To listen to the Salukis’ radio broadcast, visit www.CILFM.com.

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