Football falls 49-28 in season opener at Eastern Illinois

    Mika'il McCall had 146 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in his first game with the Salukis.

    Mika'il McCall had 146 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in his first game with the Salukis.
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    Aug. 30, 2012

    By Scott Gierman
    SIUSalukis.com 

    Photo Gallery  |  Final Stats

    CHARLESTON, Ill. - Southern Illinois surrendered a school record seven touchdown passes in a 49-28 loss to Eastern Illinois to open the season Thursday night at O'Brien Field. EIU quarterback Jimmy Garrapolo threw for 369 yards and a career high five touchdown passes. It was SIU's first opening day loss since 2009.

    "We just weren't prepared to play at the level we needed to and that's on me," Coach Dale Lennon said. "I didn't have them prepared to play at the level we needed to and that's what's disappointing."

    With just over seven minutes left in the third quarter, the Salukis trailed 35-28 when Anthony Thompson stripped EIU receiver Chavar Watkins and Joe Okon pounced on the fumble to give SIU the ball near the Panthers 40 yard line with a chance to tie the game. However, the Dawgs could not get a drive going, and Southern turned the ball over with an incomplete pass on fourth and eight from the 37.

    Eastern responded with two touchdown passes in the next three minutes to open a 49-28 lead and put the game away.

    "Unfortunately in the third and fourth quarter we couldn't sustain those drives that we needed to," Lennon said. "The defense was out on the field more than they should have been."

    It was a sloppy game as the two teams combined for 10 turnovers. SIU quarterback Kory Faulkner threw two interceptions, both in the first half, and Southern lost four fumbles in the game. The Salukis' six turnovers were the most they've committed since 2003.

    The Panthers committed 11 penalties in the first half alone to give SIU 97 extra yards, but the Dawgs could not take advantage, turning the ball over four times before the break.

    Southern never led but tied the game three times. The last tie came at 28-28 when SIU reached the end zone on the opening drive of the second half. Mika'il McCall beat the Panther defenders to the outside for a six-yard score, his second touchdown run of the night. McCall carried the ball three times for 30 yards on the drive. He also had a 74-yard touchdown reception on a screen earlier in the game.

    "My goal was to put 150 yards up out on the field, but still we lost and I'm disappointed," McCall said. "There are things I could've done better to prevent that."

    McCall had an impressive debut. In addition to his three scores, he ran for 56 yards on 11 carries. He split the carries with Steve Strother who had 44 yards on 12 carries.

    "We saw a little glimpse there of what (McCall)'s capable of doing," Lennon said. "We have to find ways of tapping that talent and seeing it more on a consistent basis."

    Faulkner attempted 58 passes, two shy of the school record. He threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns before he was replaced late in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. He completed a pass to seven different receivers in the game.

    SIU drove the ball into the red zone twice in the last nine minutes of the game but came away without any points.

    EIU opened the scoring with a 99-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead with 9:32 left in the first quarter. Sam Hendricks received a lateral near the left sideline and found Watkins behind the coverage for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Eastern executed the same play in the third quarter when Erik Lora found Chris Wright for a 31-yard touchdown.


     

     

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