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MVC NOTEBOOK

MVC Notebook | SIU's win against Northwestern was big, Valparaiso gets new softball coach

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SIU running back Ro Elliott (1) and offensive lineman Chase Evans (62) celebrate the Salukis’ 31-24 win over Northwestern at Ryan Field on Saturday in Evanston.

Saturday was yet another reminder of why sports are the best reality show going.

If one had received three guesses to pick one MVFC team that would win its game against a Power 5 program, SIU might have come in fourth.

North Dakota State visited an Arizona program that won two of its first 14 games under second-year coach Jedd Fisch, while Missouri State traveled to 10th-ranked Arkansas. Even Youngstown State, which was playing at Kentucky, probably would have been a better bet to beat the 12th-ranked Wildcats than the Salukis were to beat Northwestern.

So of course, SIU resembled the team it was supposed to be in August, playing a clean game and taking advantage of four Northwestern turnovers to earn a 31-24 win. Youngstown State was skunked 31-0 at Kentucky, which clearly didn’t have a hangover from an SEC win the week before at Florida.

Missouri State gassed a 17-0 second quarter lead and then lost a 27-17 fourth quarter lead in a 38-27 setback to the Razorbacks. And just after 1 a.m. central time Sunday, NDSU was upset 31-28 in Tucson.

You read that correctly, upset. The oddsmakers had the Bison as a 3-point favorite at game time, but Arizona rallied in the fourth quarter and ended NDSU’s six-game winning streak against FBS teams that dated back to a 2016 win at Iowa.

“The No. 1 thing that I think is we just didn’t play as well as we needed to on money downs,” said Bison coach Matt Entz to inforum.com. “Situational football. We’re going to go back and do what we do best and that’s work.”

NIELSON TAKES CONTROL

After South Dakota needed almost eight full quarters to score a touchdown this year, coach Bob Nielson decided to do something about it.

So he seized play-calling duties from Ted Schlafke, who remains the program’s quarterbacks coach, and the Coyotes showed in last week’s 38-21 rout of Cal Poly that they still knew how to find the end zone.

South Dakota scored 21 points in the first quarter and racked up four of its five touchdowns on plays of 40 yards or longer. That included a 75-yard scoring run by quarterback Carson Camp on its first possession.

“One of the things we tried to do last week is simplify our plan to allow our guys to play a little faster,” Nielson said.

Nielson needs to dial up his best ball plays this week when the Coyotes welcome what’s sure to be an angry NDSU to Vermillion for the MVFC opener.

VALPO HIRES PETTIPIECE

Valparaiso became the fourth MVC school to hire a new softball coach on Wednesday when it named Meaggan Pettipiece to replace Amanda Eberhart, who stepped down on July 22 to accept the associate coach position at Notre Dame.

Pettipiece has ran the Akron program the last three years after serving as an assistant from 2017-19 at another MAC school, Kent State. She guided the program at Division II Northwood University to 216 wins from 2007-16.

Valpo endured a rough 2022 season, going 14-33 while getting outscored 274-141. Opponents batted .328 against Beacons pitching and held the team to a .244 mark. Valpo was outhomered 40-11.

Pettipiece joins Jen Sewell (SIU), Sarah Willis (Bradley) and Tina Kramos (Illinois State) as first-year head coaches in the league. Sewell was the Salukis’ interim coach for the final 35 games of the 2022 season after Kerri Blaylock stepped away for health reasons.

Former SIU catcher Katelyn Massa was a graduate assistant coach for the Beacons last year and is still listed as such on Valparaiso’s website.

THREE-DOT STUFF

Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley didn’t mince words when asked about the Panthers’ 0-3 start that featured a 37-21 home loss last week to No. 8 Sacramento State. “We don’t run from our problems around here. We go at them head-on,” he said. UNI visits the league’s other winless team, Western Illinois, this week. … That game could be a long day for the scoreboard operator in Macomb. It pits the No. 114 defense against No. 117 in terms of total defense. The Panthers are ceding 518 yards per game and the Leathernecks are permitting 534. … SIU’s volleyball team takes a 7-5 mark into Friday night’s MVC opener at league newcomer Murray State. That’s two more wins than the Salukis managed all last year.

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