CARBONDALE — The statistics were enough to elicit double-takes throughout the pressbox.
SIU junior quarterback Matt DeSomer was the Salukis leading rusher, passer and receiver in the Salukis’ 28-20 loss to Youngstown State Saturday.
Granted, the passing and receiving stats were modest, but his 140 yards rushing was the best individual total for the Salukis this season. DeSomer completed 6-of-19 passes for 81 yards and caught a Connor Iwema pass for 34 yards.
DeSomer scored both of SIU’s touchdowns on runs of one and 58 yards.
Not bad for a guy who has been a safety all season. He was pressed into action three weeks ago when starting quarterback Sam Straub broke his wrist against South Dakota.
DeSomer, who was recruited as a quarterback/wide receiver. switched to the defensive backfield the past offseason.
“He hasn’t even been in the quarterback meeting room,” said SIU coach Nick Hill. “Last fall was the last time he was in, no fall, no summer, no training camp, no meetings or anything. He’s been a safety. So last week, we told him ‘Hey you’re going to come to quarterback meetings. And now he’s taking all the snaps. He’s just a really good football player.”
DeSomer will never be confused with a classic drop-back thrower. He’s more comfortable taking the snap, putting his head down and barreling ahead for tough yards.
“He’s a really good football player,” Hill said. “I’ve said that since he’s been here. He’s a heckuva football player that when given the chance to be a full-time quarterback .. Does he have a little bit different skillset? Yes, but he’s kind of similar to Mark Iannotti.
“He’s primarily going to run the football, but he can throw it well enough to beat you. He proved that today. He threw some good balls. He gives you a lot of flexibility as an offensive play caller because you can spread them out. He’ll run it. It’s hard to prepare for.”
Saturday was the third game DeSomer has appeared at quarterback this season, and he seems to be getting more comfortable.
“I’ve only been back at quarterback for two weeks, but I feel comfortable with the front five,” he said. “As long as they have my back, I can produce for them.”
In addition to the 58-yard scoring run, DeSomer broke loose on a 24-yard run, converting a fourth-and-four situation.
“They were a man team,” he said. “If we were able to have all the wide receivers go deep, it was going to open up running opportunities. That’s why you saw some defensive collapses. Other than that, we just need to execute.”
Although SIU wide receivers caught just three passes, he did throw the ball downfield more this week.
“I think it goes with the game plan, they were more of a man team,” DeSomer said. “They were going to let us run, but obviously, they were kind of bringing more in the box which opens up more passing opportunities for us.”