I-AA No. 1 Southern Illinois Tries to Stop Upset Bug
Salukis bring balanced offense on the road.
Sept. 23, 2004
By Scott Mees
CARBONDALE, Ill.- The Southern Illinois University football team returns to Delaware on Saturday.
No, not to face the team that dominated it in the first round of last season's Division I-AA playoffs -- that rematch could happen later this year.
This time, the top-ranked Salukis will take on the Delaware State Hornets at Alumni Stadium in Dover, Del., at noon (central time).
"We're going on the East Coast to a place we haven't played," said SIU head coach Jerry Kill.
SIU (2-1) is coming off a lopsided 59-9 victory over William Penn, in which most of its starters were on the bench by halftime.
The Hornets (0-3), on the other hand, have a record of 1-13 since the beginning of the 2003 season. Delaware State was picked to finish last in both Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference 2004 preseason polls.
Nevertheless, Kill is not underestimating his team's opponent, or the environment it may face.
"You never know what's going to happen," Kill said. "You've just got to be prepared."
Kill referred to (then No. 15) Western Illinois' loss at Hampton last weekend as a prime example.
"It could rain," Kill said. "There are too many things you can't control in football."
Running back Terry Jackson's playing status was still questionable as of Tuesday evening.
"Terry practiced today," Kill said. "I don't know if he'll play or not, but he seems to be better."
The Saluki head coach is pleased with all aspects of how his offense is performing.
"We are about as balanced as we've ever been, since I've been here," Kill said.
Kill added that he is happy with the efficiency of the passing game.
"We're throwing the ball equally, as well as running it," Kill said. "We're throwing the ball very well."
Through three games, SIU quarterback Joel Sambursky is 37-for-55 passing the ball. The junior has thrown four touchdowns and just one interception. Brent Little leads the team in receptions with 10 for 181 yards. Quorey Payne has five catches, but averages a whopping 29 yards per reception.
The Saluki backfield continues to get more crowded as freshman Craig Turner is now in the mix. Turner -- in his debut -- led the Salukis with 93 yards rushing in the William Penn game. Arkee Whitlock added 89 yards, and Brandon Jacobs chipped in with 63.
Freshman wide receiver Phil Goforth remains a couple of weeks away from playing, according to Kill.
As far as a plan of attack goes, Kill said the Salukis would take what the defense gives them.
"Hopefully, we'll move the ball and not turn it over," Kill said. "That's the big thing."
This will be SIU's final non-conference game before it enters Gateway Conference action. The Salukis will host Northern Iowa on Oct. 2.