Retiring office manager Sharon Lipe helps celebrate Saluki win.
Nov. 17, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - You couldn't ask for a more gratifying win for the Saluki football team than Saturday's comeback 24-17 victory over Illinois State.
1. Playing without their starting quarterback and All-American tight end, and coming off a devastating loss to Missouri State last week, the Salukis appeared sapped of energy while falling behind 17-10 in the first half. Freshman quarterback Ryan West was playing like a freshman.
2. The turning point in the game was a series of questionable calls that went against the Salukis early in the third quarter. First, LB Carl Bivens was flagged for roughing the punter. The video board replay seemed to show Bivens did not make contact. On the next play, SIU was hit was two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for pushing and shoving after the play. Again, the replay board provided fans a clear look at the action, and they were furious with the call. The 45 yards of penalties lit a fire under Southern's fans and its team.
3. Although some have maligned Southern's attendance the last two weeks (announced crowds of 5,642 for Missouri State and 5,885 for Illinois State), the fans at yesterday's game were a tremendous 12th man. They were small in number but large in enthusiasm. These were hard-core Saluki fans who wouldn't miss a game no matter what the calendar says or what the temperature is. There was a long line of fans outside the stadium high-fiving players on their way to the locker room after the game.
4. RB Ken Malcome had his best game since transferring to SIU from Georgia. He had 16 carries for 54 yards -- both career highs -- and two touchdowns. Malcome is the big power back who is supposed to get Southern the tough yardage between the tackles. Yesterday he did just that, helping Southern's offense grind out second-half yardage.
6. After a difficult first half, freshman Ryan West came back and played a solid second half. He made a beautiful deep sideline throw to LaSteven McKinney to set up one touchdown. His bootleg at the end of the game also sealed the victory.
7. Senior Day is always an emotional day. It appears unlikely Southern will make the playoffs, even if it improves to 7-5 with a win at Indiana State, because power rankings will not factor into at-large consideration this season. That means SIU's seniors have likely played their last home game. It will be a shame if guys like Kory Faulkner, Bryan Presume, John Lantz, Austin Pucylowski, Terrell Wilson and Ray Agnew and the rest of the senior class do not get to experience the excitement of a playoff game during their careers.
8. The men's basketball team is 0-2, but you can't fault their effort in two hard-fought losses to Missouri and Saint Louis. They have a bona fide star in Desmar Jackson. If the complementary pieces fall into place, they should enjoy success as they head into the less rigorous part of the non-conference schedule. We'll know a lot more about this team after it completes an upcoming 11-day stretch in which it will play six games. These are all highly winnable games.
9. Of all the newcomers, I've been most impressed with F Bronson Verhines. Here you have a 23-year-old guy who has bounced from Kaskaskia College to Rend Lake College to SIU. No one else considered him a Division I prospect. Yesterday, he played the majority of the game at the center position, even though he stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 200 pounds. His opponent stood 6-foot-11, but Verhines grabbed 11 rebounds and scored nine points. He's a smart kid who seems to squeeze the most out of his ability.
10. The same energy that Saluki fans brought to Saluki Stadium was on display at SIU Arena. With about eight minutes to go, the Salukis had cut a 10-point deficit to two, and the place was rocking. Saluki fans are hungry for a winner.
11. I don't know what to make of the officiating so far. Yesterday's game versus SLU seemed like business-as-usual. Then I look at the box score of the Missouri State-Tulsa game and see there were 63 fouls and 87 free throws. Yikes.
12. The Valley picked up its first big non-conference win today when Indiana State beat No. 21 Notre Dame. The league is 14-10 against Division I opponents so far with Bradley, Wichita State, Missouri State, Evansville and Indiana State a combined 12-1.