Malcolm Agnew had 145 yards on just seven carries in the win.
By John Lock
Carbondale, Ill. - The Southern Illinois football team (1-0) started the season with a flourish on Thursday night's 45-0 win over Taylor University (0-1) at Saluki Stadium. While the defense was pitching a shutout of the NAIA opponent, the offense was racking up 546 yards of offense and six touchdowns.
Senior running back Malcolm Agnew took a handoff on the game's first play from scrimmage and ran it 65 yards for a touchdown, just 15 seconds into the game. It was SIU's fastest score of any season opener in school history.
"It's always huge but sometimes that can even work against you," head coach Dale Lennon said of Agnew's first run. "When you start off to fast sometimes that can let your guard down and the other team can battle back. I was happy we kept the intensity up. Malcolm showed how good of a running back he is going to be for us this season."
Three carries later, Agnew was off to the races again, scoring on a 45-yard run. Midway through the second quarter, he took a screen pass 62 yards for his third touchdown of the day. Agnew only played the first half but put up two games worth of stats: he finished with 207 yards of total offense and three touchdowns--and he only touched the ball eight times.
"We wanted to come out and establish the run," Agnew said. "I think that's going to be our identity for this entire year. For us to come out and score a touchdown on the first play, that paid dividends for us."
Quarterback Mark Iannotti had a strong first career start. Playing only the first half, Iannotti completed 11-of-16 passes for 181 yards a two touchdowns along with one interception.
While the Saluki offense was breaking big plays, SIU's defense overpowered the Trojan offense. After the first quarter, Southern had outgained TU 228-40 and ended up with a 405-yard advantage in total offense.
After taking a 35-0 lead into the break, Southern pulled a majority of the starters for the second half. While the offense slowed into a time-burning ground attack, the defense kept Lennon's fifth shutout at SIU intact and limited the Trojans to just 70 second-half yards.
SIU blew up drives thanks to five sacks and eight tackles for loss. The Trojans never seriously threatened and didn't get more than one first down on any drive until the third quarter. Taylor never moved the ball into the red zone and only touched SIU territory three times. The first two times Taylor moved into SIU territory, Lamonte Edwards blew up the drives with a sack and four-yard TFL. Edwards led the defense with 2.5 TFLs and a sack among his five tackles.
It was Southern's backups that forced Taylor's only turnover. Late in the fourth quarter, Mike Cotton forced a fumble on a sack and Antony Greenhow recovered before the offense took a knee and ran out the clock.
"The most satisfying thing for a coach isn't the All-American or All-Conference player making the plays, it's the reserve that hardly ever gets in and makes a big play at the end," Lennon said. "It just puts a big smile on your face. I was very pleased with how some of our reserves played, they did not want to give up the score."
SIU opens FCS play on Saturday, Sept. 6, at Eastern Illinois at 6 p.m. and will try to break a two-game losing streak to the Panthers.
"We went out there and did what we wanted to do," Lennon said. "But there is a lot of work to do. Things are going to get extremely challenging this week, and our guys know that. They know this game will be personal, and there's history there."