Truman State University football collected its second straight win, defeating Missouri University of Science and Technology in the GLVC opener Sept. 17 by a score of 44-20. S&T is just one position ahead of the Bulldogs at third in preseason conference rankings.
The Bulldogs’ defense allowed 72 rushing yards and scored off a 97-yard interception by junior Ben Chaney as time expired in the first half. Chaney’s interception return in the third quarter is the sixth longest in Truman history and second longest in the history of the GLVC.
When Chaney intercepted the ball, he says he made a split decision to keep going down the field.
“I caught it, and [senior] Austin Zoda actually told me to get down right away,” Chaney says. “Then I realized that where I caught it, all the fast guys were behind me, so I just started going, and I saw a hole of white jerseys to my left blocking for me. It all opened up around the 50 yard line, and at that point, I was like, ‘Run faster, do not get caught.’”
However, Chaney says allowing those 20 points was not acceptable, and compared to last season’s defense, something has been different.
Truman’s defense led the GLVC last season and ranked highly in the nation in points allowed per game. Chaney says the tenacity of the defense has not changed in the past year, but an improved team atmosphere on the defensive side of the ball should make them an even greater power this season.
“Our practice habits so far this year have been incredible, and I think that carries over big time to Saturdays,” Chaney says. “I’ve been here for four years now, and I don’t know if we have had as good of team chemistry on defense as we do this year. I can feel that difference.”
Chaney’s interception set the tone for the second half, but another Bulldog set the tone for the entire night. Freshman Jordan Salima tallied 267 all-purpose yards in Saturday’s match. Salima contributed 173 of those yards on kick returns, 11 on a pass reception and 83 on 28 rushing plays. He also ran for one Bulldog touchdown.
Truman posted 199 rushing yards on 134 passing yards for a total of 333 yards on offense. The Bulldogs struck first on the opening drive with a 24 yard field goal from junior Nick Dolezal. The team piled on seven more points on its next drive with a rushing touchdown from redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Barr. Truman was able to score again before half to gain the 17-14 lead.
“Our game plan every week is to win the rush battle, win the turnover-takeover ratio and, most importantly, finish strong,” Salima says. “For the most part, we executed very well, we had more rushing yards than the opponent, we capitalized on turnovers and put points on the board. We developed an assassin’s mentality and brought home a W.”
Salima’s yardage is the second most in Truman history since 1997. This performance earned him GLVC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, the first conference award for the ‘Dogs this year and only the third of its kind for Truman in three years.
“For the most part, the reason we’ve had so much success is because of our practice habits,” Salima says. “QBs and receivers practice routes non-stop to perfect timing, while the line perfects technique. Both are essential in the passing game, and for us these habits translate to the field.”
In addition to Salima, the Bulldogs have had a steady stream of young running backs contributing this season. Louie Ramirez, graduate assistant and running backs coach, says his young players all bring different attributes to the table.
Ramirez says this depth gives the offense freedom to determine who sees playing time based on the game plan for each specific opponent.
“[Sophmore] Malique [Robbins] is able to go out in the slots and run and catch, and Jordan can run and catch the football, but he’s more of a power runner,” Ramirez says. “And then [sophomore] Andy Satulla can again run, catch and block, and it’s all centered around our game plan. We have an idea of how many touches we want to get these guys in a game.”
Ramirez also explained the ability of the Bulldog offense to explore other options, particularly in the quarterback position, which is moving between Barr and sophomore Randy Schroeder.
“Jaden is really multiple as far as his ability to throw the football, and Randy is great,” Ramirez says. “He has done everything we have asked him to do, and he is going to kind of be our situational guy, but really Jaden [Barr] has been able to bring something from a different dimension to the table.”
The Bulldogs have scored 68 more points so far this season compared to the same time last season.
Ramirez says everyone showed up to play Saturday and did what was asked of them, putting Truman in complete control of the game.
“It’s a mix of everybody doing their job and executing it well,” Ramirez says. “It’s a team effort and not one position is doing better than the other. Everyone was executing at a high level in all three phases of the game, and this allowed us to be dominant throughout 60 minutes of football.”
Truman returns to home turf this weekend to host non-conference opponent Lincoln University at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24 at Stokes Stadium.