Mika'il McCall ran for 81 yards, and also made two receptions.
By Scott Gierman
OXFORD, Ohio - SIU dropped its second straight game to start the season with a 30-14 loss to Miami (Ohio) Saturday afternoon at Yager Stadium. The Salukis kept the game close in the first half before the RedHawks pulled away with two scores late in the third quarter to open up a 17-point lead.
Southern cut the lead to 24-14 with 5:42 left in the game when Mika'il McCall scored on his second one-yard touchdown run of the game. However, the Salukis could not recover the ensuing on-side kick, and Miami added a Spencer Treadwell 16-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the game to end hope of a Saluki comeback.
"It took a little bit to get going," SIU quarterback Kory Faulkner said. "We got better towards the end, but it was a little too late so we just have to start earlier."
After struggling in the first half, Faulkner completed 14 of 22 passes for 153 yards in the second half.
Coach Dale Lennon said he definitely saw some progress from the Salukis since week one and liked the effort as well.
"I think our team took a step forward," Lennon said. "I'm definitely not going to feel good about a loss, but I'd be feeling real down and out if I didn't think we got better as a football team. We battled. I had no gripes about our effort out there on the field."
Miami's Pat Hinkel intercepted two of Faulkner's passes. Both picks were thrown inside SIU's 25-yard line, and each led to a touchdown. Hinkel's first interception came less than three minutes into the second quarter and was returned for a 20-yard touchdown to give Miami a 14-7 lead.
The two costly interceptions coupled with two missed field goals by SIU's Austin Johnson proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
"That's the nature of the game," Lennon said. "You have to make field goals. At the end we would've been down by seven points in the fourth quarter and having a chance to do something. That's an area that we definitely have to improve."
SIU made a big defensive stop to end the first half. Miami took over with 5:23 left in the half and leading 14-7. The RedHawks drove to Southern's six-yard line with eight seconds left on the clock when Miami's Dysert completed a pass to Andy Cruse near the goal line. Cruse turned his shoulders and dove towards the end zone, but it was determined that he was stopped just short of the line as the half expired. The replay booth confirmed the ruling on the field, and the Dawgs entered the half down by just one score.
SIU was able to get pressure on Dysert and sacked him twice, but he often escaped as he threw for 176 yards in the first half.
"We got some pressure," Ken Boatright said, "but we had opportunities to get some sacks that we didn't make so we need to work on finishing."
Dysert opened the scoring 10 minutes into the game when he eluded two Saluki defenders, rolled right and found Cruse in the end zone for a 10-yard reception, giving Miami a 7-0 lead. Dysert completed 78 percent of his passes in the game, and 12 of his 28 completions were to Cruse.
After surrendering seven touchdown passes in week one, Southern's defense played much better against a talented Miami offense.
"I was very pleased with our defense overall," Lennon said. "Looking at what happened the week before, to be able to regroup and play a team of this caliber with a quarterback as good as what Dysert is and receivers as good as (Nick) Harwell and (Dewan) Scott. We knew we were going to be tested, and I thought our guys stood in there."
The Salukis also found success in the ground game against Miami's defense. McCall led the team with 81 yards on 16 carries while Steve Strother ran 10 times for 46 yards. It was McCall's second consecutive game with two touchdowns to start his SIU career.
With the loss, SIU falls to 0-2 to start the season for the first time since 2001.