SIU's 49-14 loss at No. 8/9 South Dakota State Saturday was its worst in 14 years.
The Jackrabbits forced two straight three-and-outs on defense and scored five touchdowns on their first five possessions in Brookings, South Dakota. SIU broke the shutout off quarterback Sam Straub's 6-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes, 1 second to go in the third quarter.
SIU's 35-point loss was its worst since falling 48-7 at second-ranked Delaware in the playoffs on Nov. 29, 2003.
Here are three more things we learned from Saturday's defeat:
No. 1 — Dykhouse Stadium is really nice
Dykhouse (pronounced Dike-house) Stadium, South Dakota State's $65 million-plus facility that opened last year, feels a lot like Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions.
The concourses feature ceilings higher than the stands at Saluki Stadium, and the dimensions of the place really make you feel like you're close to the action. The press is situated on the fifth floor, and my 42-year-old eyes could make out the numbers of the players.
The place seats over 18,000, and Jackrabbit fans might just fill it up one of these days. The only complaint I had was the scary ledge the stadium had just outside the print media area, for cameras shooting the game. I'm all for open air and a nice view, and I'm sure the camera operators appreciate the roof over their heads, but put a low railing or some kind of safety net there.
No. 2 — The offense must pick up the defense
SIU hasn't scored a touchdown in the first half in its last two games, and is still averaging over 30 points a game. But the time has come for the offense to pick up the defense.
Quarterback Sam Straub has been great, but he has to be more efficient. His four interceptions haven't helped, but none of them really put the Salukis in incredibly bad spots. SIU must find a way to improve its running game, to the point teams have to respect it more than they are right now, and increase his completion percentage so he can put more pressure on opposing defenses.
The Salukis have as good skill players as anybody else in the Valley, but can't use all of them if they trail by two or three scores. The defense must figure out a way to improve its run defense and keep opponents from getting seven or more yards on every first down.
"There's no excuse for giving up that many rushing yards," SIU coach Nick Hill said after South Dakota State rushed for 368 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries. "We knew their explosive playmakers were going to make plays in this football game. They have their entire career, but, whenever you make it easy on them, when you're rushing the ball and picking up 80 percent on third down, and we're not picking up third downs, it's just a recipe for a long, long night."
No. 3 — Receiver trio making plays
Darrell James will kick himself about that potential touchdown in the first half when he watches the film from Saturday, but the junior wide receiver has been an incredible weapon this season.
After five games, James leads the Salukis with 23 catches, 343 yards and five touchdowns. Billy Reed and Israel Lamprakes led SIU with 45 catches and 617 yards, respectively, last season. Connor Iwema (22 catches, 327 yards, two touchdowns) and Raphael Leonard (13 catches, 182 yards and three touchdowns) could both approach those numbers by the end of the year.
All three receivers average over 14 yards a catch.