Coach expects Salukis, QB to rebound after first Missouri Valley Football Conference loss
today at 5:44 am
Whether he throws a touchdown or an interception, Nic Baker is always looking forward to the next play.
That why Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill said this week that he isn’t concerned about his sophomore quarterback dwelling on a three-turnover game in a 23-16 loss last weekend at Northern Iowa.
“I’m honestly not worried about Nic,” Hill said. “If there was a hangover effect, the three turnovers came before (a late drive inside the UNI 10-yard line). He was cutting it loose and playing hard. He got out of a big sack. There’s never an ounce of doubt in that kid’s mind.”
Despite two interceptions and a lost fumble, Baker completed 27 of 42 passes for 306 yards and drove SIU 66 yards in seven plays in just under a minute late in the fourth quarter. The Salukis couldn’t connect on four passes into the end zone from the UNI 9, which ended their bid to tie the score.
The loss in Cedar Falls was the first Missouri Valley Football Conference defeat for SIU (6-2 overall, 4-1 MVFC) and its first against an FCS opponent this season.
Baker and the seventh-ranked Salukis get an opportunity to turn the page at noon Saturday, Nov. 6 with a home game in Carbondale against No. 17 Missouri State (5-3, 4-2).
Baker, who won two state championships at Illinois powerhouse Rochester High School, has the second-most passing TDs (19) in the MVFC this season and the third-most passing yards (2,180). He has completed at least 60% of his passes in seven of SIU’s eight games.
In SIU’s only other loss – Sept. 11 at Kansas State – Baker led the Salukis 49 yards in just over 90 seconds late in the fourth quarter before the team fell short in a 31-23 loss to the FBS Wildcats.
“There’s no flinch in Nic Baker,” Hill said. “It hasn’t crossed my mind how Nic is doing. He walks in the building the same way every day.”
Hill, who was an accomplished QB at Southern Illinois himself, said the losses are opportunities for learning and growth for his football team.
“Nic has now had two of them, and grew from them,” he said. “We talked about that at Kansas State, when we didn’t (succeed) in a 2-minute opportunity. We’ll be better for that this season because those situations will come back again.
“You continue to bank those moments,” he said. “That’s why experience is so important for a position like quarterback.”
News and notes
Freshman linebacker Jakari Patterson sustained a broken bone in his hand against UNI, according to Hill. Patterson, who has 33 tackles and a team-high four pass breakups, could play this week with a soft cast on the hand. … Hill said linebacker Bryson Strong, who has been out after off-season hand and shoulder surgeries, will miss the entire season. Strong will have an additional surgery that will keep him off the field, and Hill said the junior will have a decision to make about whether he wants to return next season. … SIU has a 7-3 record in its last 10 games against ranked FCS opponents. … Johnson City native Nico Gualdoni, the Salukis’ senior kicker has moved into the No. 8 overall spot in career points scored with 215. He needs 20 points to take over the No. 6 spot. … Senior punter Jack Colquhoun is enjoying a career-best season with a 44.87-yard average per kick. The career leader for a single season is Tom Striegel, whose 45.90 average came in 1981.
Where to catch the game
The Salukis kick off Saturday, Nov. 6 against MVFC foe Missouri State at noon in Carbondale. The broadcast will air on ESPN3 online. For the radio call, visit CILFM.com.