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Salukis challenged to 'Earn it'
The depth chart is out, but Southern Illinois University football coach Dale Lennon challenged his team to ignore it at Media Day on Thursday.
“We’re not good enough to just show up and win it,” Lennon said. “The theme for the year is ‘Earn it.’ I don’t want any of our players with any sense of entitlement. I want that hunger within the team that’s genuine.”
The Salukis had to scratch and claw for their final two wins of last season, taking down Western Illinois and Indiana State in back-to-back weeks to finish 5-6. Assured of the team’s first losing season since 2002, SIU held the Leathernecks to minus-7 yards rushing in a 20-10 win, and then ended the first year of Saluki Stadium with a 49-21 win over the Sycamores.
Western Illinois finished second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with a 5-3 mark. The Sycamores fell to 4-4 and tied SIU and four other teams for third place in the league.
SIU missed the postseason for the first time in eight years. To try to get back to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, the Salukis are starting at the bottom. Thirteen starters return, but all of them will be expected to come to Sunday’s first practice of the season with something to prove.
“One thing that we want to build on this year was how we finished last season,” SIU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said. “The Indiana State and the Western Illinois games really were ones that we came out and did what we’d hoped to do. Followed through on the game plan, and executed, took care of the football. Those ended up in victories.
“If you look through the season, the rest of the season, there were some ups and downs. Some inconsistencies that coach Lennon mentioned. Those are things we’re going to try to improve on to make sure those don’t happen again.”
SIU opens the season Sept. 3 at Southeast Missouri State. The Salukis’ first home game is scheduled for Sept. 24 against Missouri State, in what will be both teams’ MVFC openers.
Etc.: Paul McIntosh will start the fall as the team’s starting quarterback, but the race is “wide open” according to DeBoer. Lennon said he hoped to make a decision on the Game 1 starter by the end of the second week of fall camp. … NT Derrick Nsubuga, who started the last 10 games of the season, transferred in the offseason for what Lennon said were “personal reasons.” Lennon said Nsubuga left the team on good terms.
BY TODD HEFFERMAN, THE SOUTHERN