Saluki defense dominates first scrimmage of spring ball
CARBONDALE, Ill. - A Southern Illinois defense that returns just five starters dominated the action on Saturday morning at Saluki Stadium during the team's first live scrimmage of the spring season.
The Saluki "D" recorded eight sacks and held SIU's three running backs to just 55 yards on 30 carries. Led by defensive end Blake Miller, who had eight tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage, the unit made life difficult for the offense on this warm, windy day.
"I feel we're going to be pretty good defensively," said head coach Dale Lennon. "The guys up front are athletic, they move around very well and they're tough to block."
In addition to Miller, linebacker Bryan Presume and end Kitray Solomon added seven tackles apiece, while linebackers Taylon Hunter and Blake Mattson each had a pair of sacks.
The Saluki offensive line seemed over-matched at times, especially after starting left tackle Ethan Wirth exited midway through the scrimmage with a knee injury. Also sidelined was starting left guard Nate Haremza. SIU's quarterbacks were under constant harassment.
"Some of it's on the pass blocking and some of it is on the quarterback," said Lennon. "The quarterback has to check the protection."
The team's starting quarterback, Kory Faulkner, completed 4-of-6 passes for 50 yards, including a 23-yard strike to All-American tight end MyCole Pruitt. He also threw an interception.
The only quarterback who was able to put six points on the board was sophomore Matt Vincent, who completed 8-of-13 for 62 yards, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Josh Skadeland.
"Matt stepped up today and showed some calm at the quarterback spot, and that's an area he needed to improve upon," Lennon said. "It was good to see him step up and be noticed."
The scrimmage began with five red-zone drives starting at the 25-yardline. Those possessions produced one touchdown -- a one-yard plunge by running back Mika'il McCall -- and four long field goal attempts, of which two were successful.
Next, the team ran a couple of goal-line plays from the two yard line, and McCall powered his way into the end zone on both tries. He finished with 25 hard-fought yards on 11 carries.
Lennon said he was not surprised or alarmed by the play of the offense, which returns eight starters, since it is still early in the spring season.
"I was hoping we could move past that and not have some of those offensive stumbles that you go through in the first scrimmage, but we did," he said. "I like the way we flew around, brought a lot of pressure and played our style of defense. Offensively, we need to be able to handle that. We have some work to do between this Saturday and next Saturday and hopefully, you'll see some considerable improvement at that time."
The team will have another live scrimmage next Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
"The challenge between now and the end of spring is establishing our identity," Lennon said. "Are we a mature team or are we immature? Are we tough or are we weak? Those are the things that are going to be the focus the next couple weeks."
RUSHING: Mika'il McCall (11-25, 3 TDs), Tay Willis (10-16), Ken Malcolme (9-14), LaSteven McKinney (1-6), Kory Faulkner (2- -5), Tay Griffin (2- -15), A.J. Hill (4- -22), Ryan West (1- -6)
RECEIVING: Ahmad Hicks (3-17), Israel Lamprakes (1-2), LaSteven McKinney (1-9), Shaq Findlater (2-35), John Lantz (1-9), Kennington Easley (1-5), Tay Willis (2-17), Josh Skadeland (2-14), Mika'il McCall (1-9), Dalton Morgan (1-13), MyCole Pruitt (2-28), Jamal Flowers (1-12)
FIELD GOALS: Austin Johnson: 45-Miss, 47-Miss, 45-Good. Chris Adams: 46-Miss, 42-Miss, 42-Miss. Thomas Kinney: 24-Good, 45-Good. Jackson MacLachlan: 37-Good, 46-Good.
TACKLES: Adam Brandt (4), Jordan Poole (1), Luke Thuston (5), Blake Miller (8), Kitray Solomon (7), Calvin Belts (3, David Boatright (3),Taylon Hunter (2), Carl Bivens (3), Brandon Willingham (1), Q'Niko Thomas (1), Anthony Thompson (1), Bryan Presume (7), Brandon William (1), Corey Lee (2), TJ Beelen (1), Leonard Garron (1), Jory Cunningham (1), Dinnus Harding (3), Chris Davis (2), Houston Walker(1), Bobby Thompson (2), Cortland Dunlap (1), Jordan Bowlby (1), Blake Mattson (3), Courtney Richmnd (2), Terrell Wilson (1)
TACKLES FOR LOSS: Luke Thuston (1-9), Blake Miller (3-10), Calvin Belts (1-5), Taylon Hunter (2-12), Carl Bivens (1-1), Anthony Thompson (1-3), Bryan Presume (3-18), Brandon Williams (1-4), Shawn Mitchell (1-1), Blake Mattson (2-14)
SACKS: Blake Miller (1-6), Calvin Belts (1-5), Taylon Hunter (2-12), Bryan Presume (1-8), Brandon Williams (1-4), Blake Mattson (2-14)
INTERCEPTIONS: Trey Colbert (1-0), Corey Lee (1-0)
From: SIU media relations