SIU knew it was going to have to score some points to keep up with South Dakota State, and the Salukis missed their opportunities on the road. Darrell James dropped a sure touchdown pass in the first half, and SIU stumbled out of the gates with two straight three-and-outs and an interception. An even second half wasn't enough.
Saturday night, South Dakota State made SIU's defense look like the 2016 unit rather than the improved 2017 squad. The Jackrabbits escaped trouble, created explosive plays in the run game and through the air, and were hardly challenged on offense. South Dakota State has explosive players, but scoring five touchdowns on its first five drives was lethal.
Special Teams: C
Getting the first punt of the game partially blocked wasn't a great start, either, but SIU's special teams did their part — mostly — of keeping them in the game. Reazin still finished with an average of 48.2 yards per kick, and the return game did open some things up for the offense. The Salukis' kickoff coverage was solid enough.
The task was tall before SIU's horrid first three drives. South Dakota State was coming off a tough loss — one coach John Stiegelmeier called embarassing because his team only had 37 offensive plays — and had to get back on the winning track if it wanted to win the league again this year. The Jackrabbits have big, explosive receivers, and a quarterback that can get them the ball, and all of them played well. SIU missed tackles, couldn't corral the run game, and gave up big plays that led to touchdowns instead of first downs. Offensively, the Salukis never got in sync, and were down four scores before they knew what hit them.