You can only lead so much from the sideline.
The return of safety Jeremy Chinn and running back D.J. Davis helped SIU's football team pick up its first Missouri Valley Football Conference victory of the season Saturday over previously-ranked Youngstown State. Chinn tied fellow safety Qua Brown for the team lead with nine tackles in the Salukis' 35-10 win on Homecoming. Davis rushed for a team-high 70 yards on 18 carries, including a 37-yarder that set up SIU's first touchdown of the day.
Both had bigger psychological impacts on their team. Chinn helped take the top off what is now, statistically, the top passing defense in the MVFC during conference play. Davis has always been a big-play threat but also gives the Salukis an incredible option as a decoy when they line him up with Javon Williams Jr. or Romeir Elliott.
"It's definitely good to be back," said Chinn, who missed two games with plantar fasciitis in his foot. "For D.J. to be back. It was definitely a psychological effect that I felt, just a mindset that people felt that confidence again. It's good to have that moving forward."
Davis took the first offensive snap 37 yards into YSU territory.
"If was definitely a different type of energy once we got out there on that field (Saturday)," SIU quarterback Kare Lyles said. "And you could just sense that from the beginning, and it carried over to execution, both on offense and on defense."
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The offense scored a whole 17 points in its last two games, although No. 3 South Dakota State and No. 10 Illinois State had a lot to say about that. Saturday, the Salukis were great when they needed to be. They converted only 6 of 16 third downs but scored two touchdowns on fourth downs.
Lyles completed a 53-yard touchdown pass to Landon Lenoir and a 73-yard score to Williams off a play designed to take advantage of YSU's aggressiveness. Lyles took the snap and immediately flipped the ball over the defense toward the left side of the field, where Williams beat everybody and grabbed it near the 40. Hardly anybody touched him until he stiff-armed Penguins safety Zaire Jones to the turf near the YSU 25 and cruised into the end zone with his second touchdown of the day.
Chinn helped SIU's defense hold YSU's ground attack to just 30 yards on 33 carries. Linebackers Bryson Strong and Makel Calhoun, as well as defensive end Chucky Sullivan, all had two sacks. The defense racked up 12.0 tackles for loss and broke up six passes.
"It wasn't anything that we couldn't handle, anything we hadn't seen before," Calhoun said. "We just put our foot on their throat, and just kept it on it."
This team isn't too bad when it has everybody. Just think what the Salukis may have when linebacker Bryce Notree, last year's leading tackler, comes back from a broken foot and defensive tackle Kyonta Stallworth returns next week.