Redshirt junior running back Cortezz Jones rushes toward Indiana State defenders on his way to a first down.
Redshirt junior running back Cortezz Jones rushes toward Indiana State defenders on his way to a first down.

PREVIEW: Football hosts SIU for Homecoming

After taking their first Missouri Valley Football Conference loss to 17th-ranked South Dakota, Murray State finds itself facing another ranked team in Southern Illinois.

It’s Homecoming at Murray State and the Racers will look to keep spirits high for the weekend, while the 13th-ranked Salukis will look to spoil the celebration in a renewed rivalry.

A Long History

While the Racers and Salukis have only played 22 games against each other, their first matchup occurred in 1927, when Murray State defeated Southern Illinois 6-3 in Roy Stewart Stadium.

The longest win streak for both teams has been three. The Racers won all three games from 2000 to 2002, while the Salukis have won the last three games dating back to 2003.

The series between the two teams is tied at 10-10-2. Since games in college football can no longer end in ties, the only things that can change are the wins and losses, and only one team will take the series lead on Saturday.

Setting the Record Straight

Murray State has had a rough schedule so far, going 2-3 through its first five games. Of the three losses, the Racers played two FBS opponents, one of which was the University of Louisville Cardinals, who are ranked 14th in the AP Top 25.

The Racers’ also lost to the FCS 21st-ranked South Dakota. The win propelled the Coyotes up to the 17th-ranked team this week.

The Salukis are 4-1 this season, including wins against Northern Illinois University and then-13th-ranked Southeast Missouri State University. Heading into week six, the Salukis were ranked fifth in FCS football, but after losing 31-3 to Youngstown Stata, SIU has fallen to the 13th-ranked team.

Both Murray State and SIU are 1-1 in MVFC play.

Keys to the Game

Similar to the game against South Dakota, the Racers offense would have to keep up with senior quarterback Nic Baker and the Salukis’ offense. While Murray State’s offense had over 250 yards against the Coyotes, their defense couldn’t keep them in the game. So for the Racers to succeed against a ranked team, their offense has to be clicking on all levels.

For the Salukis, their pass offense is the key to winning any game. Baker has thrown for over 1,200 yards through the first five games of the season with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. If the pass game gets going, it’s hard for anyone to stop it.

Players to Watch

While the key to the game may be the offense, sophomore linebacker Nick Walker has made an impact on defense for the Racers, leading the team with 32 tackles through the first five games. He’s had 17 solo tackles and 15 assisted tackles this season and he always finds himself in the play.

Junior wide receiver Izaiah Hartrup has been one of the standout receivers for the Salukis’ offense, catching 22 passes for 277 yards and a team-high three touchdowns. He doesn’t have the most receptions or yards on the team, but he leads the way in touchdowns and shows how versatile the passing offense of SIU can be.

Where to watch

Murray State hosts Southern Illinois on Saturday, Oct.14. It’s Homecoming at Murray State, and the field will be surrounded when the game kicks off at 2 p.m. Fans not attending can watch the game on ESPN+.


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