CARBONDALE — SIU's football team has played two teams with 3-4 fronts already, but UT Martin will bring a unique system to Saluki Stadium on Saturday.
The Skyhawks (1-1) play a very active 3-3-5 scheme that could give SIU (1-1) a lot of problems in its home opener this weekend, coach Nick Hill said at his weekly press conference Monday. UT Martin had 2.0 sacks in its 42-20 win over Northwestern State, the only FCS team it's played this year, and has eight quarterback hurries and 10 pass breakups on the season.
"They're big, physical and experienced. (Linebacker Sherrod Pittman) is a really good player at linebacker. They do some good things," Hill said. "They've scored on defense this year, but up front, they really set the tone. They drop eight into coverage a lot of times, and they rush three D-linemen. They'll mix it up and bring their pressures. They'll create some tough things. You trust your defensive line if you're doing that, and sometimes they get pressure. They do a good job up front."
Senior defensive end Julian Crutchfield, a preseason all-conference pick in the Ohio Valley Conference, has 13.5 career tackles for loss in 26 career games. Backup safety JaQuez Akins leads the Skyhawks with 19 tackles in two games. Pittman, a 6-foot, 225-pound senior, has 18 stops, including a team-high 12 by himself.
SIU averaged 4.2 yards a carry in its season-opening loss at No. 17 Southeast Missouri State and rushed for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries in Saturday's win at UMass. Senior D.J. Davis rushed for 85 yards on 21 carries, and Javon Williams Jr. had 68 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in Amherst, Massachusetts. Williams, who had a 64 yard touchdown run and an 85 yard touchdown catch, was the Missouri Valley Football Conference's offensive player of the week after helping the Salukis beat an FBS opponent for the first time in 12 years.
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UT Martin allowed 387 passing yards and three touchdowns against Northwestern State, a Southland Conference opponent, and trailed 20-14 at the break. The Skyhawks got a 55 yard punt return for a touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown, and won 42-20. They allowed 231 yards and three scores on the ground and 312 and three touchdowns through the air in Saturday's 45-0 loss at No. 11 Florida.
SIU is feeling good after picking up its first win of the year at an unlikely place Saturday, but turned the page quickly to UT Martin. The Salukis went 0-5 at home last season, and know that teams that want to compete for conference championships have to win the majority of their home games. Family Weekend could give SIU a nice boost.
"To be a good football team, you win games at home. You win 'em on the road, too, if you plan on winnin' the amount of games we want to win, you especially gotta win 'em at home," Hill said. "We've talked about our schedule. You can't let games slip away at home. For our program to take that step, we've gotta create some excitement at home. I expect there to be a big crowd, and we gotta give 'em a reason to be excited about."
• Parzych out this weekend: Defensive tackle Blake Parzych, a team captain, will likely miss this weekend's game against UT Martin, Hill said. Parzych suffered a high ankle sprain at UMass and could be out a few weeks. X-rays were negative, Hill said, and he may be out until after the bye week. Parzych has 19 career starts and played behind senior tackle Malik Haynes the first two games.
The Salukis have great depth on the defensive line, with Haynes, Michigan State transfer Kyonta Stallworth, sophomore Keenan Agnew, Bowling Green transfer Tyree Jackson and Iowa Central Community College transfer Elijah Watson in the middle.