Saluki Football | Top-ranked Bison have a lot to play for, too

CARBONDALE — Normally you can’t talk about No. 1 North Dakota State without mentioning its defense. Its last two head coaches, who both won multiple FCS national championships, were former defensive coordinators, and current leader Matt Entz was the defensive coordinator on last year’s team that won it all.

Here’s a link to the story at the Southern Illinoisan.

Cardinals add pitchers Woodford and Seijas, 3B Montero to 40-man roster; Leone dropped

The Cardinals added three minor leaguers and designated veteran reliever Dominic Leone for assignment Wednesday as they placed their 40-man winter roster at 40 players a couple of weeks or so ahead of the winter meetings.

Here’s the link to the story at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

As Ozuna declines qualifying offer, Cardinals focus on improving their outfield

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When it comes to the Cardinals’ description of an early-offseason approach that is not as singularly focused as previous winters — straight talk, no chaser — the annual General Manager Meetings offered a chance to do some comparative shopping because of the one thing agents and teams all shared for a few days.

Here’s a link to the story at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Colin Kaepernick’s NFL workout – Top takeaways (and the truth) about Saturday’s tryout

I still remember watching Colin Kaepernick play in the Kraft Bowl which solidified him as the greatest player in the history of the University of Nevada football. His playing style was captivating, as he became the only player in NCAA history to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in their college career

Here’s a link to the column at Fox News.

Murray State closes out SIU, 79-66

MURRAY, Ky. – Murray State used a 10-0 run late in the game to put away the SIU men’s basketball team 79-66 on Tuesday night at CFSB Center. The back-and-forth game featured eight ties and 17 lead changes.

SIU (2-4), which was a double-digit underdog, came to fight, starting the game on a 6-0 run. The Salukis stayed with the Racers until a six-minute field goal drought in the game’s final eight minutes.

Murray State (3-1) had two runs that went a long way in deciding the outcome. SIU had a one-point lead with three minutes to play in the first half, but Murray closed the half on a 7-0 run — all in the final 1:20 of the half — to take a 34-28 lead into the break. Then, with SIU within four points after an Aaron Cook Jr. layup at the 8:20 mark, the Racers went on a 10-0 run to push the lead to 14.

“We had a bad end to the first half and a bad end to the game. We have to be able to make those runs,” SIU head coach Bryan Mullins said. “But in terms of sharing the ball and playing the right way, I thought we did a much better job tonight than we did against San Francisco. We have to grow and get better as a team. Now with Sekou (Dembele) back and hopefully getting Karrington (Davis) back in the mix, we’re going to continue to get more depth off the bench, as well.”

Murray State featured its depth; of the nine players that played against SIU, eight played less than 24 minutes. Five Racers scored in double-figures, combining for 70 of MSU’s 79 points.

The Salukis battled foul trouble throughout the game, with all of the starters except Eric McGill in foul trouble most of the night. The Racers got 30 of their points from the free-throw line, including a remarkable 26 attempts in the second half. MSU knocked down 22 of those (85%) to avoid an upset-minded group of Salukis.

SIU played well in front of more than 4,500 fans at the CFSB Center in Southern’s first true road game of the season. SIU started the first half on a 6-0 run and the second half on a 7-0 run. Early in the second half, SIU added another 7-0 run in just 21 seconds to take a three-point lead at the 14:35 mark to force a Murray State timeout.

“After San Francisco, we challenged the guys the last couple days,” Mullins said. “They knew they didn’t play the right way against San Francisco and they wanted to come out and battle them. There were those two runs that caused the separation, and we have to do a better job not letting 6-0, 8-0, or 10-0 runs happen throughout the game.”

SIU was led by Cook’s 16 points. He was joined in double-figures by Eric McGill (11) and Ronnie Suggs (10). Harwin Francois hit three 3-pointers to provide a spark off the bench in 15 minutes.

UP NEXT: SIU has a week off before hosting NC Central on Tuesday, November 26, at Banterra Center.

NOTES: Aaron Cook had two steals to tie Desmar Jackson for 10th on SIU’s career steals all-time list … Sekou Dembele, who redshirted last year and battled an injury this year, saw his first action in an SIU uniform and scored three points … Murray State took the lead in the series between the schools, 19-18.

Column: The removal of Mitch Trubisky late in the Bears’ loss to the Rams exemplifies this lost season

On another brutal night in the middle of a lost season, Bears coach Matt Nagy made an executive decision to pull the plug on quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The move came late in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s miserable 17-7 loss to the Rams and was announced to America by legendary NBC play-by-play announcer Al Michaels.

Here’s a link to the column at the Chicago Tribune.

Bears fall to the Rams 17-7 as quarterback Mitch Trubisky exits late with a hip injury

The Bears’ 17-7 loss to the Rams on Sunday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was filled with misses.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

Saluki Football runs over WIU, 45-21, for fifth-straight win

D.J. Davis and Javon Williams Jr. combined for 356 yards and five touchdowns

Next Game:
North Dakota State
11/23/2019 | 2 PM

MACOMB, Ill. — Southern Illinois ran for a season-high 388 yards and forced five turnovers to win its fifth-straight game, a 45-21 victory over Western Illinois on Saturday afternoon, setting up a showdown next week with No. 1-ranked North Dakota State.

One of the hottest teams in FCS football, the Salukis (7-4, 5-2) are playoff-eligible for the first time since 2009. The game didn’t start out like the blowout it eventually became, however.

Southern only led by three at halftime, 10-7, after making some uncharacteristic mistakes during the first half. After recovering a Western fumble on the opening kickoff, SIU was unable to score on four-straight plays from either the two or 1-yardline. The Salukis also had a punt blocked, when punter Jack Colquhoun mishandled a snap, and the defense committed a pair of 15-yard penalties that extended drives for the Leathernecks (1-10, 1-6).

“We were kind of getting in our own way,” SIU head coach Nick Hill said. “We couldn’t score on the one yard line, we dropped the ball on the one punt. Our personal foul got them going. There wasn’t any chewing out (at halftime) or rah-rah speeches. It was just — let’s go execute in the second half.”

Southern proceeded to reel off 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to squelch any thoughts of an upset. The Salukis did it with a devastating running game that chewed up a 41-19 advantage in time of possession and simply wore out Western’s defense

Senior running back D.J. Davis carried for a career high 208 yards on 31 attempts and scored on TD runs of 13 and 7 yards. Freshman Wildcat back Javon Williams Jr. added three more touchdowns, coming from 1, 8 and 2 yards out, to extend his TD total to a nation-best-among-freshmen of 18. He had 149 rushing yards and also completed two passes for 48 yards.

The second-half damage was done without both starting offensive tackles, as Ernest Dye Jr. and Beau Branyan left the game with injuries and were replaced by redshirt freshmen Lucas Davis and Brett Groves.

“We came out firing on all cylinders in the second half,” said Davis. “We stuck with the running game when it was getting three or four yards, then we started busting big ones. We have to keep trusting the O-line.”

Just as important as Southern’s ground game during the winning streak has been the dominating play of its defense. The Salukis held Western to 315 total yards, forced three fumbles, snagged an interception and racked up five sacks, including strip-sacks by Anthony Knighton, Chucky Sullivan and Jordan Berner.

“I can’t say enough about our defense about how they have played all season,” Hill said. “This is one of the best defenses in the country, in my opinion. I feel like they have given us a chance to win in all seven Missouri Valley games and they did again today.”

Buck Buchanan Award finalist Jeremy Chinn was a one-man wrecking crew with a career-high 15 tackles.

“We had to think about what we wanted to do and who we wanted to be, and after stepping back and looking at the big picture, we just came out and balled in the second half,” Chinn said. “To be able get seven wins under our belt and be in position to play some important games, that’s why I came here.”

SIU quarterback Kare Lyles went 12-for-18 through the air with 144 passing yards. Of SIU’s 14 receptions, 11 went to either Landon Lenoir (5 catches – 114 yards) or Avante Cox (6 catches – 53 yards). Cox also ran for a touchdown. Kicker Nico Gualdoni added a career-long 45-yard field goal in the winning effort.

Southern will go for its sixth-straight win next Saturday against unbeaten North Dakota State on Senior Day at Saluki Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. CT. Buy-one, get-one tickets are available using the promo code “BOGO”.

“I really hope fans show out next weekend at Saluki Stadium,” Hill said. “Not just because we have a team that deserves to be in the top-25 and has won five-straight games for the first time since the stadium has opened, but to show appreciation to those guys that came here in 2016. To show appreciation to the three fifth-year seniors that came here, Cody Crider, Ernest Dye Jr. and Jacob Marnin. Those are tough Salukis. To come out and watch one of the best players who has ever put on a Saluki uniform in Jeremy Chinn and D.J. Davis as well. We’re talking about Saluki Hall of Famers who will be talked about for a long, long time. And we’re playing the best team in the country.”

Nick Hill’s weekly press conference

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill met with the media on Monday morning as the Salukis (2-4, 0-2) prepare to play No. 18-ranked Youngstown State (4-2, 0-2) on Saturday at 2 p.m. The last four meetings between the schools have been decided by a touchdown or less. Saturday is SIU’s Homecoming and Hall of Fame game, in which eight Class of 2019 Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized during the game.

Opening statement.
Looking back and watching the film against Illinois State, we had our opportunities to win the football game and we didn’t get it done. We talked about at halftime in the locker room, somebody had to make a play. We didn’t necessarily start it the right way when we fumbled the first kickoff, but our defense responded, they get a stop and miss the field goal, and we score on our first play of the second half. Then we hit the onside kick. Really, at that point, is where you need to take over the game, have full momentum of the football game. We weren’t able to, on that ensuing drive, to go and score. We continue to compete, but we’re not in this thing to be in close games. We have to go and finish games and win.

I know Youngstown’s in a similar situation. They’ve had two tough games against two tough opponents, one similar opponent in South Dakota State. It will be two teams that desperately need a win that compete on Saturday. Looking forward to the challenge and I know our guys are going to be ready. It’s a resilient group that has good leadership and I know they’ll be ready to play.

On Youngstown State.
They’re always going to play solid on defense. Coach (Bo) Pelini does a great job. Since I’ve been here, in 2015 the game went to overtime, and the last three years have been one-possession games. Last year, 17-14, felt like we let one slip away there. The year before that was 21-20 and we had the ball with two minutes to go around midfield and we got a strip sack and they went down the field and scored. Each year has come down to the last possession of the game, they’ve been low-scoring, grind-it-out type of games. They’re always going to run the football and they’re always going to play great defense. It comes down to who makes the least amount of mistakes. Winning and losing comes down to doing the fundamental things right. You can scheme up some plays or scheme up a blitz and make a play, but at the end of the day, you have to tackle well, you have to block, you have to throw and catch, you gotta get open, break tackles on offense. That’s what it will come down to on Saturday.

On the play of the defense.
I’m encouraged by the way they’ve been playing. To go from a pretty good defense, to a good defense, to a great defense, those drives that we can eliminate some of those mistakes, we can be even better. That’s what Coach (Jason) Petrino and that staff continue to coach and preach and hound on. We gotta have a great week of practice. I think Malik Haynes has played the best football he’s played since he’s played here. Cody Crider is playing at a high level. We’re rotating some guys up front, we have a couple guys banged up, and it’s really just next-man-up. In this league you have to play great defense, and they’ve done that. They’ve played good enough for us to win the football game the last two weeks.

On the protection problems versus Illinois State.
We got sacked nine times last week. We felt four of them were really on the quarterback. The first sack in the red zone on third down, just slid the protection the wrong way. They brought a field pressure and we should just slide right into it, have enough guys to protect it, and we take a sack. Whether it’s setting the protection wrong, sometimes you have to learn to fight another day when there’s not a play there to be made, sometimes you have to throw it in the stands. Some of them, we’re just getting beat. There were too many of them, regardless. We had 14 third downs and seven of them were 3rd-and-10+. We had a 3rd-and-24 in there, a 3rd-and-18 in there — not high percentage, where people can pin their ears back and come after you. It’s a collective thing. Those sacks are on everybody and we’ve got to get it fixed. It’s our job as coaches to put them in better positions.

On quarterback Stone Labanowitz’s injury rehab.
Stone practiced yesterday. He’s not be cleared to play in a game yet. He did the non-contact portion of practice but had his pads on. It’s really day-to-day with him on how he feels, as far as really pushing the ball down the field. He looked good with the intermediate stuff, but he’s still really probably a week or two away from being able to play in a game. You still have to take hits and take a pounding. He’s definitely on the trend upward.

On the importance of positive plays on early downs.
We’ve had too many negative plays. We had eight plays for minus-114 yards in that game, whether it be penalties, sacks or throws behind the line of scrimmage where we didn’t get a block on the perimeter and got tackled for minus yards. You aren’t going to win any games with those numbers. We’ve had a couple of penalties to start drives, so now you’re 1st-and-15, 2nd-and-15. It’s a little bit of everything. I have complete confidence we’re going to get it figured out. We just have to take ownership, (don’t) start pointing fingers, we all have to do our job better.

On wide receiver Sam Bonansinga.
He’s always been a consistent guy. Sam’s going to be where he’s supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there. He’s continuing to get more confidence and we have confidence in him. He’s been doing it for a long time, he’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s a junior on the field, but he’s applied to medical schools, has a few interviews coming up. He’s a really smart kid, good football player and has had a really good career here.

On the quarterback situation when Labanowitz is healthy.
We have to win. Going into this week and this gameplan, Karé (Lyles) is our starting quarterback. Stone’s done some good things, he was our opening day starter. We need Stone to come back and compete, get into practice and get in a rhythm. At this point, it’s not a quarterback competition. Karé’s our starter and will be our starter this week.

Cardinals starting to look like a team that knows it’s over

WASHINGTON — In hindsight, it was fitting that the Nationals called upon professional boxing announcer Michael Buffer to perform his iconic, “Let’s get ready to rumble,” introduction before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

Here’s a link to the column at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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