Fourth-quarter mistakes costly in Saluki loss to Youngstown State

    Kory Faulkner is third in the nation with 14 touchdown passes.

    Kory Faulkner is third in the nation with 14 touchdown passes.

    Sept. 29, 2013

    By Tom Weber

    CARBONDALE, Ill. - After last night's frustrating 28-27 loss to Youngstown State, I heard a lot of comments about how a missed extra point was the difference in the game. Technically, that may be true, but there were many more fourth-quarter mistakes that allowed the Penguins to rally from a 13-point deficit and sneak off with the victory.

    1. Leading, 27-14, and with possession of the ball, Southern's first major mistake came when a big pass play to Malcolm Agnew was wiped out by holding. Instead of first down at the Youngstown 47, the Salukis faced 2nd-and-20 at their own 32. The drive stalled and Youngstown took over at their own 26 with 13:31 remaining.

    2. The Salukis had a chance to stuff the Penguins and get the ball right back. On 3rd-and-6 at the YSU 30, Saluki CB Courtney Richmond was flagged for pass interference, giving Youngstown an automatic first down. If Richmond had turned his head to look back at the ball, he probably doesn't draw the flag.

    3. Later on the same drive, Hess completed three-straight downfield passes against SIU's secondary for gains of 18, 13 and 15 yards, finally resulting in a touchdown that made the score, 27-21. Southern's red-zone defense is allowing a 70-percent touchdown rate this season, and that's way too high.

    4. SIU's next drive started out promising enough, as QB Kory Faulkner picked up 17 yards on a bootleg. After Agnew was stuffed, Faulkner misfired on two passes and the Salukis punted the ball back to the Penguins.

    5. Trailing by six, YSU conducted the most important scoring drive of its season -- a mammoth 16-play, 83-yard march, that featured two fourth-down conversions. The first one came on 4th-and-6 at SIU's 27. QB Kurt Hess rolled to his right, escaped pressure, scrambled back to his left and somehow lunged out of bounds right at the first down marker. If a Saluki defender stops him a foot shorter, Southern probably wins the ballgame.

    6. The winning score came on a 4th-and-goal from the 1. Instead of attacking the center of the line, Hess threw a play-action pass to a wide open receiver in the corner of the end zone -- a risky play, but it turned out to be a game-winner.

    7. Southern still had 1:50 to mount it's own scoring drive, and for a time, it appeared poised to do just that. On 3rd-and-10 at the SIU 38, Faulkner completed a 20-yard pass to John Lantz, who made an extraordinary sideline catch, while dragging his left toe in bounds.

    8. At the YSU 41, Faulkner hit All-American TE MyCole Pruitt on a crossing route for a short gain. Pruitt's knee buckled when he was tackled by the YSU defender, the ball popped out, and Youngstown recovered the fumble for the victory.

    9. Last week, Southern had a 10-point lead and simply ran the ball down SEMO's throat to close the deal. In fact, the Salukis ran the ball a whopping 15 times for 66 yards in the fourth quarter alone against the Redhawks. Last night, SIU could never establish its running backs, as Agnew and Tay Willis were held to a total of 28 yards on 14 carries in the game. In the fourth quarter, Agnew ran the ball just once for no gain. Lack of a consistent ground game continues to haunt SIU.

    10. It's hard to reconcile a 2-3 record when you consider that Faulkner is playing fabulous football for Southern. He is third in the nation with 14 touchdown passes and only two interceptions, and is on a pace to throw for 3,000+ yards and challenge the school record for single-season passing yards.

    11. The 2-3 record begins to make sense when you see that SIU is 114th in the nation out of 122 teams in passing yards allowed, with 297 per game. Yes, they've faced some fantastic quarterbacks in Nathan Scheelhaase, Jimmy Garoppolo and Eric Hess, but the Saluki defense didn't force any turnovers last night and had just one sack, and that's not typical of a Bubba Schweigert-coached unit.

    12. The Salukis had a chance to go to overtime at Illinois, lost in overtime against Eastern Illinois, and lost in the final minute to Youngstown State. As Coach Lennon mentioned last night, you can't allow a "here we go again" mentality to set in, where you start thinking of new ways to lose close games. This week's game at South Dakota State will test Southern's resiliency.