Jeff Kolpack, Published October 16 2013
Home-field advantage on hold so far at Southern Illinois
The press box was old and rickety, and the curb appeal was more of an eyesore. So the school embarked on a major fundraising campaign, and in 2010, Saluki Stadium opened with a modern, updated look worthy of any top-notch stadium in FCS football.
It may have been too nice.
It was a lot of things McAndrew was not, including not being a home-field advantage. The Salukis are just 10-9 in their new digs, and that’s not what Dale Lennon had in mind.
“I don’t have an answer for that,” Lennon said of the home record. “I would like to have it be better. We’ve lost some close, heartbreaking-type of games that you thought we would be able to win because we’re playing at home. I just don’t have an answer why we haven’t been able to do that.”
Close games like the 9-3 win NDSU took two years ago in its only visit to Saluki Stadium, which is still on campus just down the road from McAndrew. Two more examples came this year when Eastern Illinois won the home opener 40-37, and Youngstown State scored late for a 28-27 win three weeks ago.
Perhaps it was rival Southeast Missouri State that took the first shot with a 24-21 win early in the 2010 season. Perhaps the SIU teams of the last three years just didn’t possess the overall power of the teams the previous seven years.
Whatever the case, it wasn’t McAndrew.
“McAndrew was different enough where that when teams came in to play at McAndrew, they had to adapt to the field,” Lennon said. “They had to adapt to a few things. It may have been we made Saluki Stadium too nice and comfortable for the opposing teams. We haven’t made enough obstacles for them to overcome to play there. I don’t know.”
NDSU returns to Saluki Stadium for its second visit Saturday afternoon. The Bison will probably see a different atmosphere than the vacant one they saw two years ago.
The Salukis were 3-6 at that point and playing for pride. This time, they’re coming off two straight road wins over top 10-ranked FCS teams and will have a homecoming celebration to embrace as well.
“Our next opponent is playing their best football right now,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “They’ve made significant improvement from last year, and I imagine they’ll have a big crowd for their homecoming game.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia