SIU's 36-28 loss to Missouri State was what you call a team loss.

The Salukis (4-5, 2-4 Missouri Valley Football Conference) failed a bit in all three areas in their last chance to keep their playoff hopes alive.

* Quarterback Tanner Hearn's only interception was a big one, ending a red zone drive that might have gotten SIU three points and some momentum right before the half.

*The defense didn't tackle particularly well, gave up some big plays late to thwart much of a comeback attempt, and didn't force any turnovers.

* The special teams allowed a critical kickoff return that allowed Missouri State to jump back into the game after SIU scored the first seven points.

Here are three more things we learned from SIU's loss at Saluki Stadium on Saturday:

No. 1 — SIU's red zone offense is not the same without Straub

The Salukis scored on 16 of their first 21 trips to the red zone this season, but are just 2 of 7 in their last two games. Saturday, they scored twice on four trips to Missouri State's 20-yard line and beyond, turning it over on Hearn's interception in the end zone and giving it back on downs on another possession.

No. 2 — DeSomer can be quite effective

He didn't throw it downfield much at all Saturday, but in his first real performance as a quarterback, junior Matt DeSomer proved he could be pretty effective against the Bears. The 6-foot 198-pound former wide receiver and safety completed 9 of 12 passes and rushed 16 times for 74 yards (4.6 yards a carry).

What was impressive with DeSomer was how SIU put him in an empty backfield, broadcasting that he would run the football, and he was still able to pick up some big first downs. Missouri State caught on in the second half and came up with some big stops, but I'm curious to find out how well DeSomer can sling it to SIU's receivers this week.

Last week was really his first week since he's been at SIU that DeSomer threw to the top wide receivers. He was accurate and showed some arm strength, and could be a nice weapon against Youngstown State this weekend.

No. 3 — Special teams have to pick it up

Special teams have largely been a strength this season, but the last two games have been tough to review. The South Dakota loss featured some costly penalties — some of them highly, highly questionable, but, costly penalties — and the Missouri State game it was all about kickoff coverage.

Kicker Nico Gualdoni hit what coach Nick Hill called a perfect kickoff in the first quarter, pushing Missouri State returner Matt Rush to the far left side of the field. Rush caught it near the goal line, and had a pretty good tunnel forward before cutting back and going 72 yards into Saluki territory. Roman Tatum saved the touchdown by grabbing Rush at the 28, but by grabbing him by the facemask, he gave the Bears the ball at the SIU 14.

Two Jason Randall rushes, and a Zach Drake extra point later, Missouri State tied the game and took the momentum back from SIU in a must-win game. The coverage teams must figure out how they've been burned lately, and Gualdoni, or Matt Sotiropoulos, whoever goes out for the next field goal attempt, has to make sure he's solid. The Salukis shouldn't gamble anywhere outside the 40-yard range, but when the kickers get a shot at three points, hopefully they nail it.


On Twitter: @THefferman


Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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